Says your Internet Pastor: God has no problem with blocking Internet advertising.
Yes, it really is a moral question. No, it has nothing to do with free speech.
Internet users are individuals. Each of us will tolerate what we tolerate, and no two of us are exactly alike. We all know what we like when we see it, and what we don’t like. We all have our own peculiar reasons for what we do in response to advertising. For some of us, the game itself of blocking ads is a form of entertainment. For others, the technology is of no interest at all, just the content. If the ads don’t bother you, then the only real consideration is the snooping and tracking that comes with advertising. But for the advertising itself, the issue is our individual tolerance.
If I think your ads suck, I’ll take advantage of the technology to block them. My computer, my display, my eyeballs and my attention — my rules. You can try to force your rules on your website, but if I can circumvent anything, I will. There is not a shred of moral wrong in my doing so. You don’t have some inherent right to profit at my expense; the business of information and entertainment is enticement. Advertising itself is a market. If your ads were entertaining enough, I wouldn’t block them.
However, as an individual with my own peculiar wiring, if anything on the webpage moves, you had better let me decide when it moves or I’ll kill it. That’s my needs. Your content won’t mean shit if I can’t read it without distraction. Other folks are wholly undistracted and you’re just wasting resources. Either way, stop whining advertisers.
Some days are worse than others for me. There are times when text is all I can tolerate and I have browsers to display nothing else. Some sites are just so freaking idiotic in their layout that I use highly limited browsers (like Links2) every time I visit. A significant number of such websites are fully aware that some portion of their audience will never be a source of ad revenue, but they actually intend to deliver the content anyway. Some erect pay-walls (require a subscription and login) and that’s fine. Others pretend to be open but take advantage of the technology for delivering content by choosing technology that hides the content in various other ways until you open yourself up to the advertising displays — unless you know how to use add-ons like NoScript. It’s a pain to train NoScript; you have to experiment with it and see what blocking each source does, but once you get past that initial stage, it’s nice how it restores your choices and control.
And that business of free speech? It’s not blanket immunity for you to do what you please. It means equal access to the soapbox, and that means you cannot force people to come and listen, or to unplug their ears as they pass by. You cannot require them to sit quietly while you yell and scream. They have an equal right to ignore you or shut you out of their attention. You’ll win a much bigger audience if you at least entertain them. Manipulation is just asking for trouble, and only the individual is permitted to define what “manipulation” means to them.
Let the technology race continue.