Tjebbe van Tijen via Chello on Thu, 13 Sep 2007 19:09:35 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-nl] Add BLOCKERS & LOCKERS: is filtering always censorship?

(Only) today a small Internet war came to my attention between Add Blockers & Add Lockers

A certain mr. Danny Carlton has started a campaign against an add-on utility for the web browser Firefox called ABP (Adblock Plus) that gives the user of the Firefox web browser almost complete control on what part of added advertisement to block or not on a web page....

Denis Carlton has even established a web site to fight his cause on which we can find a manifesto that starts of with:

"You've reached this page because the site you were trying to visit now blocks the FireFox browser."

The first sentence of the manifesto then explains why:

"The Mozilla Foundation and its Commercial arm, the Mozilla Corporation, has allowed and endorsed Ad Block Plus, a plug-in that BLOCKS advertisement on web sites and also prevents site owners from blocking people using it. Software that blocks all advertisement is an infringement of the rights of web site owners and developers."

and the conclusion of Carlton is a (proposed) direct action by calling upon web providers to counter-block all Firefox web browser users:

"Since the makers of Ad Block Plus as well as the filter subscriptions that accompany it refuse to allow website owners control over their own intellectual property, and since FireFox actively endorses Ad Block Plus, the sites linking to this page are now blocking FireFox until the resource theft is stopped."

Carlton (who must be a front for some bigger interests groups) wants to LOCK the user to the advertisements on a web-page and sees that as his kind of "freedom" (of trade) ...

The action against Adblocker inspired me to download and install the software and test it... and I must say it is a great tool and also a great improvement for on-line reading as nothing is so annoying to my letter reading eyes than flashing, blinking, scrolling and other optical effects that try to draw my attention away from the text or the images I had chosen to read or view on a certain web page ...

The Adblock utility can be switched on or off from the toolbar of the browser and filters can be downloaded that prove to be most effective (even on numerous pages of Dutch dailies that were before a horror to the eye...).

lets you take part in the war of BLOCKERS & LOCKERS which seem - from my side as someone who likes to be able to BLOCK certain advertisements - a sunny affair, though - as always - more dark consequences lurk in the background ...

Dynamic and personalized filtering techniques of electronic communication do create new forms of censorship. What used to be forms of filtering/censorship that were located between the producer and consumer, will now become auto-censoring devices on the consumer level. This last thing is of course not new in itself. One could even say that perception as such is based on 'discrimination', that what is perceived, comes to us by our decision what NOt to focus on... we never take in all what is possible to see, smell, feel, read, we constantly make a selection ... or in other words: selection implies de-selection.

A less theoretical example:l in the old days on monday my hands would know that the second part of the newspaper was "only sports" so would drop it ... while others may do it the other way around. We may browse through a book and only look at the pictures or happily download a personalized selection of single songs in mp3 format from the Internet and sift and order them into a long sequence of music that fits our own taste and does not follow the imposed order of the music market with its old style albums in CD or gramophone format...

When does filtering & selection become censorship? Whose FREEDOM is at stake?

For some time already - with the right investment and ability to get through the manuals - one can filter out all advertisement from commercial television stations (simply by time lapsed digital recording and playing; or more advanced by a program that blocks the advertisement intermissions). Speaker independent voice recognition can be combined with such digital television display or recording and a de-selection list of words or phrase elements can be entered in an attached database, allowing the blocking from whatever person or event that has been voiced in a television broadcast or on video played. Such devices have been or may be still on sale in the USA propagated by religious communities that have decided to BLOCK certain words, scenes or combinations thereof, that do not fit their faith.

Certain things are obvious and clear: the contract between Google and The Chinese State to filter Internet content, and all kind of smaller initiatives in this field are clear cases of censorship, but at the other end of 'the rainbow' of options is the Firefox Adblocker. One can see that these two examples are not in the same ideological 'color area' of my metaphorical rainbow'. What needs our attention are all the fine shadings of color in between. An example is my enthusiasm trying out the Firefox Adblocker, just on the optical level, because it enhances my reading of many web-pages that I had stopped reading before because my eyes do not want to be distracted by moving objects on a screen while reading a text, or looking at a still picture with some attention, while a bouncing texts distracts me. So in My case I started to "censor" certain web-pages because of the way in which the real information and the added advertisement have been mixed ... I did not block them by a piece of software, I simply stopped going to these web pages (one wonders whether or not advertisement agencies and commercial web providers are doing sufficient user-research to support their actual visual strategy with added advertisements).

Content censorship and perception based on visual discrimination combine here. In my case it is first of all the amount of effort it costs to constantly ban certain (moving) areas on the screen from my view that brings me to install an Adblocker, the actual irritation about the content or intent of the advertisement comes (mostly) second.

I do not know about Internet user-statistics that elaborate this question... but it is hight time that the inter-linkage between visual and content irritation because of additional advertisement on web pages becomes an issue for both consumers organizations and corporate information suppliers ... in the mean time my good advice = once more to download this:

(nb a pity that the certificate of this add-on causes the browser to give a warning about the content... it is safe... believe me; or is that warning maybe part of the little war of Denis Carlton)

Tjebbe van Tijen
Imaginary Museum Projects
Dramatizing Historical Information

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