Tjebbe van Tijen on Fri, 14 Sep 2007 14:03:17 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> 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

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

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)

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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