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"What, then, is ethics? Ethics is two things. First, ethics refers to well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues." -- https://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/whatisethics....

Kant 1st Imperative -- Violates -- If everyone used Adblock, many websites would shutdown. I.e. "Adblock is okay because sites can still run if just some people do it" -- cannot be universally applied, contradiction

Kant 2st Imperative -- Violates -- You treat website developers as a means to an end -- to get content, instead of rational human beings who, given a sufficient outcry against their ads, could change their ad service or offer a different model.

Utilitarianism -- Violates -- Ad Revenue - Well being of site owner: -Site Costs / Visitors + Ad Revenue For just you. Well being of you: Site benefit - time wasted * time value. (Blocking "Ad will play for x seconds" in this specific ethical system might not violate)

Rule Utilitarianism -- Violates -- Well being of site owners: Cannot make ad supported sites, current ad supported sites -site cost. Well being of society: Less websites -- more inefficiency and less units of entertainment good.

Social Contract -- Violates -- People accept ads knowing that others will do this as well and this supports the site. Another: Site owners create sites relying on users's ability to see them and thus pay for site creation.

Virtue Ethics -- Violates -- You might feel more shame being in a room with someone who made a site supported by ads and showing them that you use adblock then if you were invisible to the site owner.

The systems above are the ethical systems allowed in the book "Ethics for the Information Age (6th Edition)" by Michael J. Quinn (the list is his, but not the theories themselves, just mentioning my source to show I'm not cherry-picking ethical systems)




But all those reflexions on the issue are completely determined by the random assumptions you use in your examples.

Kant 1. Imp: One could deny the disappearance or embrace it. One could see the new forces leading the web away from ads as something beneficial for society as a whole.

Utilitarianism: There are many not quantifyable variables in a possible calculation. Just add seeing ads as exceedingly costly and your utilitarian argument in favour of adblocking is secured. Same goes for rule utilitarianism. E.g. Just measure the overall good generated by websites not by quantity but by quality. Get advertising in your quality metrics as something that reduces quality.

Social Contract: Spin another social contract: Page owners freely upload their pages knowing that the web is pull and users will select the resources displayed. One could argue that forcing them to download ads might violate this social contract.

Virtue Ethics: Alter the individuals opinion on his adblocking behaviour for your model. One could argue that there might be shame for someone not to block ads. (Which is a plausible case for a whole variety of ads out in the web right now.)


Ethics is always a subjective science, but these ethical models provide a fair and structured approach to looking at it.

Kant 1. Doesn't ask "what's best for society"? It asks about the "universalizability principle" i.e. "if everyone acts like me is there a contradiction?". And in this case there is, if you browse an ad-supported site that could only exist if some people view the ads is a contradiction. You have to agree that some sites would shut down if everyone used adblock, and thus the principal stands. It's not about what's best for society if the sites shut down, just pointing out the ethical contradiction that if everyone acted like you, everyone couldn't act like you (at least not always on all sites).

Utilitarianism. You just have to measure the obvious units of good vs units of bad. Again, it's not like a math proof but you can identify the units of good vs units of bad. Can you provide an alternate counter proof that is more obviously correct than my analysis?

Social Contract: I'm talking about the implicit social contract that exist today. Page owners don't freely upload their page knowing that the web is pull and users will select the resources displayed. Many page owners aren't even aware of adblock, at least not all of them.

Basically what you've said is: Movie theater owners free open their doors knowing that the world is navigable and users will select whether they want to visit the pay booth or not. Movie theater owners do open their theaters with this in mind, but they don't intend for their users to skip the pay booth if they simply don't want to pay. That's not the social contract you take on when you visit a theater.

In this case, the social contract is stated in actually stated in words you can read. Just read the terms of service on many websites. They specifically say you can view the site if you don't block the ads: "you are not permitted to block the display of ads" -- http://www.livejournal.com/legal/tos.bml

Virtue Ethics: I think this one is pretty verifyable :) Just find someone that owns a ad supported site and tell them to their face that you use ad block and you think it would be shameful not to. See how you feel ;)


I don't get this "fair and structured approach" in those models. You'd normally start off with a normative claim and then provide a justification in every sheme available.

The normative claim is the core hypothesis and your protective belt are all assumptions needed to make it indisprovable.

The value of those concepts seems purely rhetoric to me.


The first step is to just stop feeling guilty about doing what you want with your own property, and then you don't need to bother with these huge rationalizations either way.

Would you support a law that made it illegal to run ad-blocking software? Why or why not?


I'm saying you should try and it see if you feel guilty. You might or might not. What I feel is not relevant since I'm the one trying to make the point.

They aren't rationalizations, they are accepted standards for analyzing decisions based on ethical systems.

Also (what you are doing on your own property) only counts when it doesn't involve another person (the site owner).

"Rationalization a defense mechanism in which controversial behaviors or feelings are justified and explained in a seemingly rational or logical manner to avoid the true explanation" -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationalization_(psychology)

I'm not trying to avoid the true explanation, I'm trying to find the true explanation :) I'm not trying justify the act after the fact (for myself or others). Also not using Adblock software is not controversial.

"But laws, like feelings, can deviate from what is ethical" --https://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/whatisethics....

I don't believe in making a law because I don't believe in encoding every single ethical decision into laws. Just because I believe based on my analysis that it's wrong to use Adblock software doesn't mean that I believe people who use Adblock software should be fined or put in jail, etc. just that they are making a decision that is unethical. Laws deal with the practicalities of society and what has to be done to keep order, it should not be used as a tool for prescribing a 0-leeway master code of ethics upon each person.


If everyone used Adblock, many websites would shutdown. - Fails to make the claim that many (but not all) websites shutting down would be bad.

Kant's 2nd Imperative - Passes. It treats them as ends in and of themselves by focusing on the content they wish to present to me rather than lies which they don't control.

Utilitarianism - Impossible to come to agreement on. We could heap on whatever costs/benefits we want on either side to make it come out in our favor. Example, you don't take into account "Cost of tracking/malware vector" for site owner (site reputation, if there's a 0.1% chance of them serving malware which causes all their traffic to disappear), and viewers (Cost of malware).

Rule Utilitarianism - Same issue as above, you can tweak the numbers/rule to make the outcome whatever you want. Serving ads violates "Don't serve malware", "Don't promulgate lies/misleading statements"

Social Contract - Malware risk, tracking risk. I directly fund sites which I use when possible.

Virtue Ethics - Being supported by ads is un-virtuous.


(Fails to make the claim that many (but not all) websites shutting ) -- Not the intended claim. Kants 1 deals with "universalizability principle" (See other comment)

Kant's 2nd Imperative -- Incorrect perspective. Analyzing whether adding ads to your site isn't the question we are analyzing here (that might also be unethical). Blocking ads is what we are looking at.

Utilitarianism -- Incorrect perspective. Analyzing whether adding ads to your site isn't the question we are analyzing here (that might also be unethical). Blocking ads is what we are looking at.

Rule -- Incorrect perspective. Analyzing whether adding ads to your site isn't the question we are analyzing here (that might also be unethical). Blocking ads is what we are looking at.

Social Contract -- -- Incorrect perspective. Analyzing whether adding ads to your site isn't the question we are analyzing here (that might also be unethical). Blocking ads is what we are looking at.

Virtue Ethics -- -- Incorrect perspective. Analyzing whether adding ads to your site isn't the question we are analyzing here (that might also be unethical). Blocking ads is what we are looking at.


Fine, fine.

Kant's 1st Imperative -- Back to universalizability: If everybody used Adblock, then many sites would shut down. That's universalizable. In fact, I'm encouraging the universalizing of this one, rather than what you're assuming, which is that I'm hiding within "It's alright if I do it, so long as the bulk of traffic doesn't".

Kant's 2nd Imperative -- Blocking ads is the outcry, then. They have the basis of free rational action to provide an ad, I have the basis of free rational action to decide whether to view it.

Utilitarianism -- Blocking ads downside: Less economic churn (might be positive). Blocking ads upside: Reduces malware vectors, thus decreasing the chance of malware targeting nuclear facilities spreading and leading to nuclear annihilation of the planet. Given the infinite magnitude of harm, even the most improbable odds outweigh. ((Seriously, trying to actually calculate utilitarian probability is a fool's errand.))

Rule Utilitarianism - I reject that your proposed rules lead to the greatest good. Alternate rule: Permitting malware vectors to run is harmful, thus blocking malware vectors is positively ethical.

Social Contract -- Websites provide open streams of information without negotiating terms. This might apply to "Wait X seconds before seeing your content" type ads, I'll concede that.

Virtue Ethics -- You might feel shame for supporting ad-based revenue systems. (Seriously. No shame here. I'll tell you to your face that I block ads. If you proceed to block me, that's entirely fair. At which point I can decide whether I think it's worth viewing ads for one time to see the content.)


Thanks, this is much better/on topic. There's not much I can add in rebuttal without just re-iterating previous points.

One thing I was thinking about based on your points now and previous, is that wouldn't you want to block whole site that are ad-supported and not just the ads? You could have an ad-site-block that blacklists all sites that are ad-supported and removes links on pages to them.

This whole debate is like "I don't thinking paying movie theater tickers is a good business model, so I just bypass the pay stand. Let that business model die." It seems kinda immoral to me to gladly accept the services of a website and also hope for and contribute to its death.

I like to think programmers when they see grocery self-checkout lines just walk past them.

* They have malware that steals credit card numbers (See target)!

* There's nothing stopping them! They can chose where to walk and where to not walk.

* Grocery stores are an outdated business model and it should die. Use Amazon fresh! etc.

* They feel no shame. (Seriously. No shame here. I'll tell you to your face that I walk past self-checkout machines. If you proceed to block me from the store, that's entirely fair. At which point I can decide whether I think it's worth using the self-checkout to pay for one grocery item)




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