Google Reportedly Pays Off Adblock

adblock logoGoogle and other companies have reportedly been paying Adblock Plus to whitelist their ads, allowing them to be seen even if Adblock is enabled. Adblock Plus, the most popular browser extension for Firefox and Chrome, is a free extension that you can install to block all advertisements from your web browser. Or, apparently, all ads except for those categorized as “non-intrusive.” This revelation has prompted much debate on sites such as Hacker News about the pros and cons of the Adblock system.

But Doesn’t Adblock Block All Ads?

According to their website, Adblock Plus will block all ads if you disable the option to “Allow non-intrusive advertising.” However, this option is automatically enabled for anyone who downloads the browser extension. Adblock argues that allowing non-intrusive ads is necessary to keep small websites that rely on advertising alive. Others have suggested that if Adblock did not allow large companies to pay for whitelisting, those companies might take action against Adblock.

What Ads Are Acceptable?

Adblock considers an ad to be acceptable if it meets certain criteria. This criteria includes having no animation or sound, not obscuring page content, being visibly marked as an advertisement, and preferably having only text – no images. Adblock states that whitelisting is free for all blogs and small websites, while larger companies must pay the fee.

How This Gives Adblock Power

Many have realized that a tiered system such as this gives Adblock a large amount of power. Adblock gets to act as a gatekeeper, determining which advertising is “acceptable” and can be displayed to customers, and easily manipulating the content seen by the over 10,000,000 people who utilize Adblock. Adblock reports that only 25% of their users want no advertising at all, probably meaning that the majority of Adblock users are not disabling the non-intrusive ads. In addition, Adblock can use this system to create a market for whitelisting, the terms and costs of which they can determine.

Should This Be Allowed?

Of course, this begs two questions: Should Adblock whitelist certain ads, and should large companies such as Google be able to pay for their ads to be whitelisted? In discussions online, some commenters note that this creates a two-tiered system with an unfair advantage for large companies. Others respond that advertising has always been an unfair system – those with money will always be able to produce higher quality advertising that reaches a larger viewership. What everyone seems to agree on, however, is the irony of a supposed ad blocking application operating as an ad filter.

Do you think Adblock should filter ads? Should large companies be able to pay to be whitelisted?

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Elizabeth K

Elizabeth Kent is a recent graduate with an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from Brandeis University. She earned her B.A. from Smith College with a major in the Study of Women and Gender and a minor in Jewish Studies. Elizabeth recently relocated from the Boston area back to Western Massachusetts, where she spends her free time volunteering with a local non-profit organization. Elizabeth has worked as a writing tutor, archival intern, research assistant, and retail associate. Her interests include studying pop culture, kittens, and making meals with as little cooking as possible.

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