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AdNauseam: Fight Back Against Advertising Networks and Privacy Abuse (github.com)
281 points by deletia on Dec 20, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 276 comments



I approach this differently. There are a few use cases I go to the web for. For each use case that is not a free browsing I create an electron app, that never executes any code from the web or uses any external style. It only uses XHR to fetch html pages/json data/other static stuff and then transforms that data and uses it in the custom UI designed for the use case.

For example one use case is collection of news. My app looks almost like a typical RSS feed reader, except that article content is full and interactive. I can inline stupid image galleries that break article flow, I can convert custom video players into a simple <video> tag, I can drop what I don't care for. I can switch between tor/non-tor mode in a secure way that doesn't leak anything and is probably more secure than torbrowser.

I have direct access to any OS programs, so I can easily open m3u8 videos in mpv player on one click or using a keyboard shortcut, or I can download streaming videos locally and convert them to mp4 on the fly, save useful content of the pages to the database, including relevant images, etc.

All JS code is controlled by me, web servers serve me only as data sources.

What is key to make this fun and useful is structuring the app as a unified UI for multiple data sources and to be able to define data sources quickly. Fortunately ES6 generators can be used in a way that makes fetching and transforming data without the need for callbacks, or promises very easy and clear. Adding a new source is usually a matter of minutes.

It is also nice that when improving the UI, I get a new feature for all the websites that I frequent at once.

It allows me to consume content the way I want, without much exposure to tracking. All the website gets from me is an access_log entry, no cookies, nothing.

I'd say I'm quite ahead of the "war" between users and advertising networks.


Wow. Definitely publish the source. Someone will either immediately rewrite it or plugin-ify it, I bet. Either way, you get lots of free labor to work for you.


This sounds like an astonishingly large amount of work for web browsing, but it's definitely using the full freedom of HTML.


Do you have a repo up with the code?


Seconding. I totally want to start doing this myself.

That, and finally write a decent Hacker News suite for Emacs.


Browsing HN with the built in web browser is surprisingly nice due to HN's simple structure.


Package & sell.


This is brilliant. Can you point us to a repo with MVP to build on?


This sounds exactly like what I do .. for pr0n sites. Sadly I dont share your enthusiasm, its unmanageable in the long term due to all the changes and tweaks webmasters do constantly. Scripts break all the time, something that worked yesterday needs new regex today etc.


I'm out on this.

1. They say it's legally not click fraud. To me it sounds like regular fraud: "deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain, or to deprive a victim of a legal right". I'm not concerned with breaking the law I just don't want to act in the spirit of it.

2. This could hurt small startups that are very carefully managing an ad budget. They say the market will adjust, but until it does small startups take a hit. People we know.

3. I dislike activism without clear objectives. I see no list of guidelines here or good behavior that companies could adopt to immediately place them on the side of the good guys.


>3. I dislike activism without clear objectives. I see no list of guidelines here or good behavior that companies could adopt to immediately place them on the side of the good guys.

The goal highly specific. It is to make Internet advertising artificially expensive, and it is to make harvested data about users inaccurate.

There are no "good guys" on the other side. People shouldn't track me, that one's obvious, but they also shouldn't advertise at me, ever.

Human attention is extremely valuable, by far the most expensive commodity on the planet. If advertising companies want my attention so damn bad, they can pay me ~$65000 a year for it, same as my employer does. Otherwise, they can piss off.


Any time an industry declares war on its users (as ad tracking did years ago), it gets ugly. I thought the endgame would be manipulating analytics to get extremely specific, high mistargeted auction prices:

I'm shopping for a $1.3M turbine part. It will look nice next to my hand made tibetan merino wool cat stand that I am also shopping for. Of course my eyeballs are worth $1000/minute. Why do you ask?

As mean as these guys are, they could be a lot worse.

Anyway, kudos to the extension authors!


It's not like the ads just appear while you're sitting around doing nothing. You see the ads when you are receiving something with them. The ad companies are paying for your attention with the content you consume.


My attention is more valuable than that. It's /my/ attention, I get to set the price, and I don't accept their offer. They're welcome to block me from their websites, if they feel that's not acceptable.


You set the price when you consume the content that you know is funded with ads.

It is your attention which you are agreeing to trade for information or entertainment.

>They're welcome to block me from their websites, if they feel that's not acceptable.

This is more commonly happening now. Then we all have to deal with people complaining about that. Taking up /my/ attention which they are refusing to pay for. Pay me for reading your posts.


>You set the price when you consume the content that you know is funded with ads.

You're objectively wrong. If that were the case, I would be blocked from accessing the content without "paying the price".

The situation is instead clearly analogous to a "pay what you feel it is worth" model.

The creators of the content allow anyone to view it, regardless of whether they run an ad blocker or not. Sometimes, they place alternative content where the ads would be, requesting that I disable my ad blocker, or like them on facebook as an alternative.

I think the "recommended price" of this "pay what you feel it is worth" model, which is usually watching advertising and allowing myself to be tracked, is too high.

I have once or twice directly sent the creator $5-10, when they offered a payment method that didn't require a paypal account. If it's good content, that's pretty reasonable. Dans Data[1] /is/ good content, even if it's getting a bit dated these days.

[1] http://www.dansdata.com


>The creators of the content allow anyone to view it, regardless of whether they run an ad blocker or not. Sometimes, they place alternative content where the ads would be, requesting that I disable my ad blocker, or like them on facebook as an alternative.

So would you suggest (or would you even use) AdBlockers identify themselves to the website (so I can write "if($_SERVER["AdBlocker]){echo "Sorry, see ads or leave}"?

Because there are adblock blockers, and people write _adblock-blocker-blockers_.


No need. Every web request implicitly has that header set already. Its completely within the content providers power to deny me content with that understood.

When you buy a magazine from Starbucks do you tell the clerk what part of the magazine you intend to read what what you intend to ignore? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. The clerk & publishers are well aware I may ignore or even rip out any or all of the magazine pages and the magazine is priced accordingly.


There are already websites that detect my ad blocker and request that I turn on ads or leave, usually in condescending language, but I do leave.


Content creators have gone with not blocking blockers up until now because it's not an issue. As it becomes more of an issue you start seeing more and more anti-blocking scripts.

Once or twice in all your years online you have agreed to an alternate funding method and you think that is sustainable for content creators?

You can make a lot of arguments for ad blocking. I ad block because it slows my computer down. Making the claim that you ad block because your attention is more valuable though is a joke.


> Making the claim that you ad block because your attention is more valuable though is a joke.

It's not a joke. It's avoiding death by thousand cuts.

Time is literally the most valuable commodity we have. Anything you do to waste someone's time - like displaying obtrusive, annoying ads - is in my books an act of aggression.


If your time is so important why are you wasting it visiting pages with ads?

>There's enough better content available for free and without ads

Surely you'd just stick with the better content that doesn't use ads all the time right?


> If your time is so important why are you wasting it visiting pages with ads?

Because I get linked to them. Also, social objects - other people are visiting those pages, so I have to check them out too in order to participate in the conversation.

Also, YouTube.

> Surely you'd just stick with the better content that doesn't use ads all the time right?

Yeah, and I mostly do.


>social objects - other people are visiting those pages, so I have to check them out too in order to participate in the conversation.

So maybe that's the cost of not seeing ads, you don't get to participate in conversations.

It's like if Stallman would, instead of making GNU, hack into MS and put the source online because he "just has to".

Most of the time, taking a moral stand requires sacrifice.


You seem to imply there is something questionable about blocking ads. The cost of not seeing ads is the time I spend setting up and configuring the ad-blocker. It's a lower cost than the attention spent on ads, so I block them.

Your analogy doesn't work, because this is about ownership. I own my machine, so I get to decide what will run and how.


"The cost of not seeing ads is the time I spend setting up and configuring the ad-blocker." - there is also the externalised cost that the sites which rely on ads will eventually go bust if everyone does the same thing as you do. Given the current state of things, you are defecting on a massive Prisoners' Dilemma.


That's not a cost, that's a benefit. There's not one ad-supported site I care about that I wouldn't be willing to donate to. And I'd be ecstatic if Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/BuzzFeed/etc. went out of business.


It can be argued that those sites going bust is actually a good thing. So the payoff matrix favors ad blocking both short and long-term.


if you dont have money for a site, you can't have one, that is the universal law of life, i would like to have a alienware, but i can't afford it, i don't go spamming people around....


>Your analogy doesn't work, because this is about ownership. I own my machine, so I get to decide what will run and how.

You own your machine but not the text. Right now it's still somewhat hypothetical, but what would be your opinion if the major websites would put a T&C that you have to enable (Let's say it was safe JS) ads to view content. Would you still say "it's my machine and I view what I want when I want"?

How are adblock-blockers (which are counterbalanced by adblock-blockers-blockers by adblockers) different?


> You own your machine but not the text.

You don't get to own the text just because you can read it, see if you read this - it is still my text (because I wrote it!).

>what would be your opinion if the major websites would put a T&C that you have to enable (Let's say it was safe JS) ads to view content.

And how would I know it's safe? I don't even let the closest friends on the wifi because they don't run adblockers on their phone and I don't want my router to get pwned [1] just because someone like Forbes is making a buck using Ads.

> Would you still say "it's my machine and I view what I want when I want"?

It is still my machine, so long as I physically own it. If I run a virtual machine in the cloud it's not mine you see, because then I'm just renting it. If ad networks want to remove the ability to block ads they would have to own the machines and rent out those computers to users, they are free to do this.

[1] https://www.proofpoint.com/us/threat-insight/post/home-route...


>It is still my machine, so long as I physically own it. If I run a virtual machine in the cloud it's not mine you see, because then I'm just renting it. If ad networks want to remove the ability to block ads they would have to own the machines and rent out those computers to users, they are free to do this.

You're free to do what you want, but not to read content.


So you just follow random links people send you? That seems like a horrible waste of your most precious commodity.

YouTube offers a way to pay for an ad free experience. Are you a paying member?


> So you just follow random links people send you? That seems like a horrible waste of your most precious commodity.

See my point about social objects.

> YouTube offers a way to pay for an ad free experience. Are you a paying member?

They don't offer it in my country, so no. But I do am a paying subscriber of Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime Video, FWIW.


So you're willing to trade your time for feeling connected?

That's a shame. They offer Prime video in Poland? I don't even think we get it in Australia :/


> So you're willing to trade your time for feeling connected?

Well, yes - that's life, basically :). Writing a comment here is also me trading time for feeling connected ;).

> That's a shame. They offer Prime video in Poland? I don't even think we get it in Australia :/

I'm surprised, I thought Australia is usually right after US in such things. As for Poland, they've started offering it something like a week ago. I signed up immediately after I learned about it, mostly because I wanted to watch "The Man in the High Castle".


Sadly not, Australia is actually usually pretty far behind. Luckily being Canadian and having lived in the US I have access but it's a pain.


Why would I pay YouTube for an ad free experience, when I already have an ad free experience?


I'm not saying YOU would. I'm saying the people saying they would happily pay for an ad free have the choice to and their choice to use an adblocker instead of paying says a lot about their actual beliefs than their claims on forums.


I for one would pay YouTube for an ad-free, smooth and offline-cacheable experience. At least now, that I have spare cash.

There is a rarely discussed topic of access for people who don't have funds or means to obtain it - like myself 10 years ago. It's tangential to ad blocking discussion, but a reason why I'm not sure if a pay-per-view Internet would be a good idea in general.

Oh, and if it helps me look better - I'm not really "ad blocking" per se, I'm doing responsive administration of my secondary OS (i.e. the browser) resources by using uMatrix, which makes me put some up-front decisionmaking work about which requests are or are not allowed on any page I visit ;). But it's fun, and I get to see how more and more insane the web is becoming :).


Check out youtube-dl, get-flash-videos or one of the other video downloader tools.


Well, I know them, but they belong to the same category as ad blockers - external tools you use because the service is not good enough :).


"So you profess to care about your lung health and gave up smoking, but you still live in a polluted city? Since people are perfect and can fix every problem in one go, you must be a lying hypocrite and not really care about your lung health at all. Also my judgement of what is or isn't a waste of your attention is valid, I have a right to judge that for you".


Actually it would be more accurate to say "You profess to care about your lung health and gave up smoking but you go and hang out in every airport smoking room you can find?"


You can think it's a joke, but I agree with parent completely. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter, since I get to choose what runs on my hardware, and I choose not to see ads.

Whether something is sustainable for content creators is not the users' concern, you don't go around worrying whether Walmart can make profit, why do you worry whether a random internet blogger can?


I don't steal from or scam stores even if I can get away with it, because while I don't deep-down care if they make a profit, I do feel it's wrong to cheat them out of it. If I want what a store is offering, I feel like I should deal with them fairly. If I don't want it, I just don't patronize the store.


My program (Browser) can ask their program (Server) do things. It may deny ANY request it wishes based on ANY criteria that THEY get to set. Their program is under no obligation to do anything my program asks.

Their program (Server) may ask my program (Browser) to do things and my program may deny ANY request based on ANY criteria that I get to set. My program is under no obligation to do anything their program asks.

This is all perfectly reasonable and fair.


Given the same premises, you can prove invasive tracking to be "reasonable and fair." I mean, they're just using information you sent them, right? In fact, it's not right, because this deliberately blinkered view of the interaction misses a lot of important details.


>Once or twice in all your years online you have agreed to an alternate funding method and you think that is sustainable for content creators?

It works fabulously as supplemental income for talented artisnal content creators who make their content because they care. They'll probably still need a day job like the rest of us, but there's a good chance people will hire them for those same skills that make them great content creators, whether they write interesting blogs or make neat-o electronics projects or produce great art or whatever.

I'm all about supporting inspired human creation. Maybe we'll implement basic minimum income and some of these people can safely dedicate their life to their talent, and inspire others along the way?

It can't possibly sustain content farms like buzzfeed. I consider this to be a great positive, and wish buzzfeed as swift and impactful a cratering as possible.


You seem to think that all content costs only the creators time to develop. I think that says a lot.


Stating an untrue statement as fact and hoping your opposite number will debate it, thus tacitly accepting it, is an extremely low quality argumentative technique, sitting somewhere between "responding to tone" and "ad hominum" on the hierarchy of arguments[1].

You strike me as a standup chap who would not resort to such techniques, so I'm sure you'll now be willing to explain to me how you came to such a conclusion, so I can help dispel your misconception?

[1] http://paulgraham.com/disagree.html


You're calling for a minimum income for them or suggesting they just do it as a side project(supplemented with a regular income).

The fact is a lot of great content is expensive to produce.


Ah, I see the problem. Because I have suggested that content can be created as side projects or could be encouraged by a basic minimum income, you have made an inference that I do not understand the costs involved in making good content.

I'm afraid to inform you that the facts you have stated do not contain sufficient information to make such an inference. You cannot know with any certainty based on these facts alone whether I understand the costs involved in making good content.


Saying they should do it for free or an unsustainable price(they need side jobs) does actually say that you don't understand the cost of good content.

You complain about the cost of your attention while suggesting people spend their time building free stuff for you.


> As it becomes more of an issue you start seeing more and more anti-blocking scripts.

That seems incredibly tone deaf. Advertisers should be working on fixing the problems. Get rid of tracking, get rid of scripts, make promises about acceptable ad size and latency and every year reduce those numbers.


Ad blockers aren't a problem for advertisers since people using ad blockers likely aren't going to click on your ads anyhow. They are a problem for content creators.


Not all advertising requires clicks. Brand awareness works by finagling associations in to your brain. No matter how immune to suggestion one things they are these things work to some extent.


they become a problem for advertising networks when they are no-longer able to proved enough money to be worth the content creators time to accept/administrate.

And when a network ad-spots start drying up, the advertisers will have to switch.

at least, that's how I'd hope it would work.


Where do you expect the advertisers will switch to? Nah whats going to happen is that sites will just start doing one of two things. a) they will start blocking users that appear to be using ad blockers. b) they will start including ads in ways that make ad blockers ineffective. Embedding them in content or proxying the ads to come from the host itself.

Ads aren't going away.


> a) they will start blocking users that appear to be using ad blockers.

Fine by me. I'll simply mark it as the malware that it is and never return to that domain again.

> b) they will start including ads in ways that make ad blockers ineffective.

This technology already exists but its ignored because harvesting and selling user data is a cash cow. This is perfectly possible today...

<a href="someplace.com"><img src="/somead.png" /></a>


Ads don't have to go away, but it's thinking like yours that leads to this adversarial atmosphere.

Many of us hope for option c - that publishers work with ad networks to fix some of the problems that drive people to ad blockers in the first place. Some people object to advertising no matter how it is done, but I think that's a relative small number of people. Most people will accept well-behaved ads.


FWIW paying someone with PayPal doesn't require you to have an account, you can pay direct with a credit/debit card.


My country also set down some laws which those advertisement network ignores. They broke the deal for which those law represent, and they get to live in the wild west for which they chosen.

Give me a advertisement network which takes legal liability for what they advertise and follows local law, and we could start talking about what implicit deal exist when I visit a website. This mean no recording (data protection laws), no malware (anti-hacking laws), fair representation of the product, clear pricing, no alcohol, tobacco or advertisement towards minors, clear indication that its an advertisement, and the other rules that exist in advertisement laws here in Sweden. Tax laws involved are also always involved If there is a deal where service is provided in exchange for goods.


> You set the price when you consume the content that you know is funded with ads.

How do I know this without viewing ads that I don't agree to view?

> It is your attention which you are agreeing to trade for information or entertainment.

The ego required to tell people who are explicitly not agreeing to your terms that they are implicitly agreeing to your terms is appalling. Surely we can believe people when they tell us what they agree to.

> This is more commonly happening now. Then we all have to deal with people complaining about that. Taking up /my/ attention which they are refusing to pay for. Pay me for reading your posts.

You loaded this hacker news page with the intent of reading other users' posts.

I've never once loaded a page with the intent of viewing an ad.

If you don't want to view my posts, I'd be entirely fine with you writing a browser plugin that strips my posts from your page. Consume the content you want to consume, that's your prerogative.


No it's not. Your attention isn't worth much tbh. But like the other poster said, pay me for reading your post.


It may not be worth much to you, but to the right employer it's worth multiple $100k, and to oneself it's worth more than money.


> It's not like the ads just appear while you're sitting around doing nothing.

Yeah, it's literally like that. I open a random webpage, wait a few seconds, and here they are. I visit my aunt, and don't even get to open the browser before BAM, ads everywhere!


>I open a random webpage


They are not paying for anything. No one entered an agreement or signed a contract. They are trying to exploit the content in a certain way, and the receiver of the content is free to take counter-measures.


They are paying the content providers who are paying you in content.

They are free to take "counter measures". But that doesn't stop the fact that they are paying for both your time and the content.


Nope, they are not paying me for anything. Again, I did not enter into any agreement. I just clicked a link. They are expending their resources in an attempt to capture and profit from my attention. Those are very different things.

Many times they also payed to make it hard for me to get to the content that I actually wanted. This is commonly known as SEO.


>I just clicked a link.

Because you want to consume what they've produced. That is how they are paying you.

You keep saying "I did not enter into any agreement" like it changes anything. It's juvenile.


The foundation of the Web - the Hypertext Transfer Protocol - is that I request a piece of data from a given address, while also providing relevant information about my capabilities and media I'm willing to accept, and then you send me back that data.

What I do with that data isn't up to you. That includes viewing all, parts, or none of the information I received from your server. That especially includes deciding about what code gets executed on my machine.

If advertisers want to control what I am doing with the content I get, please find yourself a new protocol and DRM it to your hearts' content. Just leave the Web alone.


>The foundation of the Web - the Hypertext Transfer Protocol - is that I request a piece of data from a given address, while also providing relevant information about my capabilities and media I'm willing to accept, and then you send me back that data.

So Facebook says that the foundation of the web is sending data to the server (such as cookies) and receiving information back.

Nowhere in the protocol does it say they can't track you. Ergo, tracking is perfectly legal and moral.

The foundation of the internet is that the server sends you data. Your browser happens to have a security hole and you got a virus.

Totally ethical and legal. Nowhere in the HTTP protocol does it say not to send viruses.


> Ergo, tracking is perfectly legal and moral.

It is currently legal, but that doesn't imply that it's moral. Legality does not define morality.

> Nowhere in the HTTP protocol does it say not to send viruses.

Correct.

> Totally ethical and legal.

Sending a virus is patently unethical regardless of the transport mechanism. as for legality, see a lawyer about 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5).

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1030#a_5


I was just responding to OP's claim that since the protocol doesn't specify that I'll be watching ads, it must be legal and ethical to block them and harass those who spend money on them.


> I was just responding to OP's claim that since the protocol doesn't specify

I know. The examples were still factually incorrect straw-men.

> it must be legal and ethical to block them

That's the point; it is legal and ethical to use data that was voluntarily given. If you want control over how things are used, stop sending to everybody freely and require a contract.

> harass those who spend money on them.

Clicking a link isn't harassment.


>Clicking a link isn't harassment.

You are making people lose money (not the malware adnetworks, not the trackers, but the guy buying advertisement) to prove a point to the ad-network (which is actually making money off this), I consider it close to harassment.


No, the advertisers are choosing not to pay the content creators. By blocking or using auto clickers the users are only choosing to not reveal the personal information that is sold by the content creator to the advertisers(even if the content creators don't get to see it, or cant make use of it). On tv and in movies the prestige was what advertisers where getting from ads, they would pay to have the ads carried on the same networks as great content. They wouldn't stop me from talking over an ad or closing my eyes while one was on, and I wasn't "stealing" by doing so. My part of that system was buying the cable package or the movie ticket, funding the general delivery system. Whats happened now is that content creators have taken a bad deal and started selling our personal information rather then the actual prestige of being next to their content. This is perfect for advertisers as it then sets the fight up to be between content creators and their audience, when it should be content creators and their audience working for a better deal.


No, when you artificially click on a link, the original website pays the hosting website a bit and Google a bit.

So now when you run this program, the two entities you're most against (Google for not having safe-ads) and the content website (for not working for free) are actually getting payed!

If you want to hurt Google, just block ads.


But but but! The entity that had created / placed the ad loses money! That's good, because it raises the costs for them, incentivizing rethinking of the marketing strategy. It also, over time, makes the hosting website get less money, as the quality of clicks is worse.


> lose money

Yes, that is one of the intended goals.

> not the trackers, but the guy buying advertisement

Targeting the source of funding is often an effective strategy.

> {,malware} ad-network

> trackers

> guy buying advertisement

All of these are responsible, so they are all intended targets.

> I consider it close to harassment

If following a website's href suggestion to load a URL is "harassment", then advertising is also harassment.


can we maybe make a new sort of Godwin guideline where we stop taking people seriously once they've shown they can't tell apart legal rights from moral rights?


>What I do with that data isn't up to you.

I didn't say it was.


So what you are saying is that, simply by clicking a link, I become obliged to execute whatever piece of code is served to me on my machine or render any media on my display without knowing in advance what it contains?

That is not how the web works, and that is not the social contract that it was built on. Sorry if it doesn't fit advertisers' needs, but that is really not my problem. Maybe advertisers and payed content could go to some other medium that accommodates all the restrictions you desire, and then we can all be happy?


No, that isn't what I said at all.


What you said is not meaningfully different. You imply there is some implicit relationship between the person who clicks on a link and the person who made the content behind the link.

No such relationship exists.


There is a relationship though or else there would be no communication.

You want something, they have something. You communicate your desire and they provide you with something. That is a relationship.


You are using the concept of "relationship" with two different meanings.

When I click a link, there is a relationship between me and some entity in the same sense that the term is used in computer science to describe relational databases.

This is not a relationship in the legal or ethical senses. By clicking a link, I did not agree to anything at all. All I did was react to an announcement that there is some resource somewhere, and deciding to take a look at it. If I decide to do it from a terminal and read the HTML directly without rendering, that is no one's business and my actions are not unethical in any way.

The advertisement industry is starting to behave like the music industry in the early days of the web. They are willing to destroy the best tool ever created for global human communication and knowledge sharing for the purpose of protecting an obsolete business model.


Because you want to consume what they've produced.

So I'm agreeing to the contract before even seeing the content? I guess you're fine with me having 30 days to return the content under the Consumer Rights Act (UK) if it's not as described and they'll refund me the advertising money they made from me, right?

Particularly, if you say it's a trade of content for attention, then:

For goods and services bought online, your rights are the same as if you'd bought them from a shop.

You can make a claim for a refund, repair or replacement when the digital content you've bought doesn't meet these three standards: [..]

Fit for purpose: You should be able to use it for what the seller says it will do (its purpose), whether that's their statement when you buy it, or an answer to your question. For instance, an audio track should play, and a game shouldn't infect your computer with a virus.

As described: It should match its description when you bought it. For example, a film should be in the format you chose when you bought it.

So an advert from CNN shouldn't infect my computer with malware, and a link which claims I "won't believe" something [2] should leave me in disbelief.

[1] http://www.rica.org.uk/content/consumer-rights

[2] http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/02/world/gallery/astonishing-...

Yeah?


What is it with all the pretend lawyers in this thread bringing up their misunderstanding of contract laws? Do you not realise how silly you all sound? Why do you think this comment is relevant to the thread at all? I didn't say you were legally bound to watch the ads at any point. I said you were paid for your attention. So in that case the transaction would actually be the other way around. Should the site be able to ask for a refund on their content since you didn't provide what they expected(ad views)?


> I said you were paid for your attention

I get payed for my attention in euros, after signing a contract or entering an agreement. Maybe that sounds silly to you, but that is how I roll.

I assume that you are implying that I have some moral obligation to the people publishing publicly accessible content. If you are not implying that, then we are all in agreement and there is nothing further to discuss. We both agree that ad blockers are fine, case closed.

If you are implying that, you are wrong. The WORLD WIDE WEB was not built on that premise and we were here before the marketeers and advertisers arrived. If the former manage to make some money while providing people with something they want, that's fine. I have nothing against honest business. But don't try to pretend that I have any obligation to do anything just because I accessed a resource that you made public. If you want to charge for your resource, name the price and make it private. Maybe I'll buy it. I buy books all the time. But it's not my fault or moral failing if your business model doesn't work.


I said you were paid for your attention

And I'm disagreeing, by analogy. That's how it's relevant.

Should the site be able to ask for a refund on their content since you didn't provide what they expected(ad views)?

Also valid, and also leads to the same conclusion: it's a nonsensical idea. Therefore one thing is not 'payment' for the other. There's one protocol that making a HTTP request returns content at the discretion of the server, and there's no advance agreement that the content has value, or that the client is agreeing to trade anything at all for the alleged value.

I didn't say you were legally bound to watch the ads at any point.

I didn't say you said I was, only that content is not payment for watching adverts - and that it would be daft if that was the case.


If I pass a street musician, I haven't implicitly signed a contract to pay her for the show -- either in currency or by transferring any other valued commodity. I don't have an obligation to support her business plan, even if I enjoy the music.

She may perhaps claim that we entered into an implied contract. Or the musician could post a placard reading her terms-of-service. But in simply walking down the street, like clicking on a link, it can't reasonably be claimed that I entered into a preconceived and negotiated contract where I agreed to payment for a service.


> walking down the street, like clicking on a link

these two are not even close to the same thing. clicking a link is a very specific action "show me this stuff". Your analogy would be more apt if it involved going into a venue where music is performed.


OK, so you walk in to a bar. The barman says, "£10 please, there's music playing that you've consumed". You chose to walk in. Unless they post a sign at the door, saying a concert is on and the price of entry then they're not (legally/morally) entitled to charge you.

The web equivalent is a paywall.

Now, bars put on free music. And you can go to them and not buy a drink regardless that the landlord puts on the music to get you to buy.

The landlord might get paid to have advertising up, like on a toilet vending machine. But me choosing not to look at it isn't morally wrong.

Arguably, even if I never buy a drink I can benefit the establishment socially.

The problem comes when the establishment not only needs pay the workers and buy the beer but also pay the breweries management and return dividend to share holders.

The web has moved to that stage where the capitalists have moved in - like large breweries owning pubs. Forums aren't run by the admins they're owned by media conglomerates, etc.. I'm really not sure it's made the web a better place.

Now, get off my lawn.


Surfing from link to link is very much the essential and original behavior of users on the web. A user often has very little idea what's behind the next click. I don't know what I'm getting behind the link, so a "show me the stuff" mentality would yield a deeply uninformed transaction, even if we were to think about every click that way. But from a founding perspective, the idea that every click is a fee-for-service proposition is not a basic tenet of the web or a reasonable assumption to be made of every user.


Lets be honest, a link is just an attempt to catch a fish.

Is a fish obligated to swallow a hook that is cast into the ocean?? No reasonable fisherman would think this.


Correct you took no action to interface with them besides walking. But if you walk into a room where just a musician is playing(and its advertised that this is whats happening in the room) you have now created a relationship where you've chosen to receive their art. And if they have a poster for their sponsor on the wall behind them you can't complain about it.


Trying to explain this has failed an innumerable number of times here. Whenever this discussion pops up, there are die-hards who are against all advertising versus those who present a rational argument explaining how the content they willingly consume is supported by those ads. Like wrestling in the mud with a pig, you will come out of this unfulfilled while the other side comes out feeling like the winner. They're just a highly vocal minority.

I'm not a personal fan of ads but when it comes to things I find important enough and have the option, I pay to remove them. The difference however is that the die-hards tend to not accept paying or viewing ads as acceptable. If they did, this wouldn't keep coming up.


But nobody told me what was happening in the room before I walked into it. I saw nothing but a URL, or maybe I saw some text obliquely indicating what might be happening in there. I certainly didn't see the text of a contract before I walked in. If I walk in, not knowing anything, how can I have signed a contract?

Similarly, if I have no binding contract, it certainly can't be required of me to observe or respond to everything within the room. There is no origin for the musician's claimed right to oblige me to any commercial action.


Online ads also track you, and are often executed in poor taste. It's as though most of the posters had a camera and bright flashing lights.


And then followed you home and wanted to know what you eat for breakfast, even though it had nothing to do with the musical performance.


The facts are these.

If I connect to, say, port 80 on www.cnn.com and send some particular ASCII, then the machine on the other end will likely respond with some text. The owners of that machine invite these connections.

I can then: pipe that to /dev/null; read it in a text editor; read it with a web browser; print it out; file it away somewhere. (There are of course other options.)

So pray-tell, if my browser is `wget | html2txt | more`, do you consider me in the moral wrong for failing to also send various bits of PII to whomever CNN considers a Trusted Sponsor today and retrieve images, flash cruft, malware, or whatever else those Trusted Sponsors choose to respond with?


I didn't say I consider ad blockers morally wrong.


Ok.

"In breach of implied contract?"

"Failing to respect social mores?"

"Doin' the wrong thing?"

I'm vastly less interested in quibbling about word choice than the underlying concepts being discussed.


I didn't imply any of that at all. I disputed their claim that they received no compensation for their attention.


> There are no "good guys" on the other side. People shouldn't track me, that one's obvious, but they also shouldn't advertise at me, ever.

Agree. I think it's unfortunate that so much of the debate around advertising, especially from many on the side of ad blocking, focuses only on the evils of tracking and privacy erosion. This project does it too. From their FAQ: "It is not advertising we are protesting, but advertising insofar as it represents a dominant means of tracking users without their consent." But advertising itself should be protested. I don't know why so many shy away from that. I've been working on a project to promote ad blocking. It's been discussed here on HN before, but I'll link to it anyway. https://blockads.fivefilters.org/acceptable.html


I've hated ads since I was a kid. I never realized it until back around 2010 when I overheard my friends say, "he really hates advertising. Have you noticed that?" and I was like, "Wait, it's .. noticeable?"

Modern advertising is specifically engineered to evoke an emotional response in order to buy a product. The mother/fathers of modern advertising are none other than Edward Bernays and Anna Freud. (Sigmund Freud's nephew and daughter). There's a lot of evidence that Freud resented both of these family members for using his psychoanalyst tools to help industry and government gain profit and power. At the same time, Edward was instrumental in promoting the English version of Freud's book, keeping Sigmund out of the poor house.

I highly recommend watching The Century of the Self. It's a multi-part BBC documentary that goes into the history of advertising and consumerism as we see it in our current age.


Oh oh oh, have you seen the advertisements by Sprint. I swear I hear fans kick on in my head to keep it cool when trying to unwrap their current marketing line. They have two Christmas trees (or haircuts) next to each other. One has twice the price because it has 1% more needles or 1% more cut hair. They say "would you pay twice as much for 1% more?". I think it is a genius framing of the data.


I don't understand #1, it's obviously not click fraud but how is it regular fraud? They want to track my clicks in order to gather profiling information about my personality in order to better influence/manipulate me. So now I use some technology to help me fuzz this information, I could do the same by clicking myself and browsing websites I dislike myself. Which would be boring and time consuming, hence the automation.

Where in the spirit of the law is the ability to surveil consumers reading choices in order to influence their spending enshrined? It just emerged when people realized that the information was valuable.

There were similar projects involving sharing customer loyalty card numbers for grocery stores, and I never saw the argument that sharing your card number with others was fraud.

I think you are seeing that if consumers protect themselves against this type of surveillance then the lazy (and cheap to measure) metric of clicks becomes a less effective metric for measuring advertising placement value. It exposes the fact that those measuring this were barely providing value to advertisers and publishers in the first place. That doesn't make it fraud, that just inconveniences a large industry that pays a lot of bills. Those are very different things, both ethically and legally.

As to 3, this has clear objectives, they are apparently just much farther reaching than you are comfortable with or agree with. I get it, I worked in the online advertising ad network business for many years, however I never fooled myself that this business was anything other than an unethical anti-consumer endeavour. That's why I don't do it anymore.


Regarding #3, I'm personally 100% against any online advertising in any form. So this punishes those who support it. Ditto for #2. As for #1, I'm not gaining anything, and no one is being deprived for their rights. I'm not sure what point you're trying to make there?

If anything prosecutors should start with the rampant fraud being committed by companies in the online advertising space before they even think about looking at consumers.

FTR: I don't use AdNauseam because I'd prefer to nuke trackers and ads alltogether, but I'm supportive of the project.


Micropayments have never worked well on the internet, not for technical problems, but likely more that the market isn't really there. I know I just want free stuff and I'm not going to pay to read a news article or blog post no matter how well written or researched.

So at the end of the day there is still no viable alternative to advertising supported content. Kill advertising and you'll take the content with it, because many of the content producers and curators won't waste their time for no return.

I don't like ads, but I like my free content, and ads are an acceptable way of financing it.

Edit: I get that some of you really don't like ads, but the quality of comments here is abysmal. You guys are living in some kind of dreamland if you think you can just kill of advertising and not lose something in the trade off (PS imagine a world with no Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) I honestly expect more intelligent commentary from HN, consider both sides of your argument.


> Kill advertising and you'll take the content with it

Good. Let it die.

There's enough better content available for free and without ads. Somehow, it so happens that people who have something interesting or meaningful to say tend to say it anyway, and either pay for it themselves or ask nicely for something in return.

I honestly do believe the content quality is inversely proportional to the amount and obtrusiveness of ads on the page.


The problem is the "long-tail" of content.

Sure, Wikpedia will stick around post adblock, and so will big conglomerates (they can afford to put up paywalls, like WSJ and others).

Many content-farms will just stick to being a "review for hire" gig.

The problem is that the small shops will close down.


You know who else will stick around?

All the guys with cheap hosting accounts making web pages like the 1990's. Ironically they seem to be the only ones with content worth reading...


Yeah, I've hosted websites since I was a teenager. Ten bucks a month is pretty affordable for anyone employed. If the choice is between malicious advertisements funding professional content, or free content from amateurs, I pick the amateurs. Luckily, Patreon and pay walls (yes, I like pay walls) are providing us other options to retain the professionals as well.


> Kill advertising and you'll take the content with it, because many of the content producers and curators won't waste their time for no return.

Great! I'd personally love it if they went away. If it's good content, people have definitely shown to be willing to pay for it.

"essentially all of the ad supported sites I visit are diversions" - https://utcc.utoronto.ca/~cks/space/blog/web/AdSupportedWebD...


People have been shown to create good content for free too. I'm not convinced advertising is required.


You're both right in that people make good content for free and for pay websites, but you're dead wrong if you think advertising dollars is not also a motivation. You will lose good content.


Sure we will. But, IMO, it's quite worth it.


Gaming streamers on Twitch seem to get quite a bit of donations. Streamers are personalities that connect with their audience and have a following. Surprisingly, movies and music are now available through subscription services, after many years of sharing for free. These services are successful because they are polished, convenient and legal. People are paying a lot for ebooks, in-game items and other virtual goods.

So, no reason why other content couldn't make money.

Kill advertising and you'll take a lot of lame, average content with it. Or even desirable, culturally meaningful content that doesn't quite do enough. Sports news? Forget it, people may find their favourite vlog-commentator and pay for comedy, mash-ups and creativity. A decent article that makes you think for a bit? Not good enough, chances are they'll follow a popular author and his movement and put some money down for the cause they believe in.

(Ok that last thing is a bit scary but it's where things are going anyway...)


> People are paying a lot for ebooks, in-game items and other virtual goods.

Oh yes. Besides the small money drain Netflix and Spotify are, I've lost count on just how much money I spent buying e-books - legal, official e-books - just because of the convenience factor.

> A decent article that makes you think for a bit? Not good enough, chances are they'll follow a popular author and his movement and put some money down for the cause they believe in.

I rarely see such articles published in an ad-sponsored context anyway. An occasional mainstream journalism article, maybe. But as far as I can tell, most interesting/thought-provoking pieces now are being published by bloggers, which can successfully be funded by patronage, or even pay for hosting themselves (it's peanuts).


Hosting might cost peanuts, but literal peanuts cost money. How are those bloggers going to eat?


By having a day job, obviously.

It's actually better this way, because if your writing isn't directly tied to your income, you're not incentivized to write for exposure. This breeds higher quality.


I disagree. If you can't fund your content without ads then you have a bad business model. We should kill ads and any content that dies in the collateral is an acceptable loss.

Micropayments also don't work because no one has done it well, not because it's inherently not going to work.


I think micro-payments just don't sit well with people psychologically.

Even if you know the totals are going to be tiny, being on a meter just adds mental overhead to every click. And moreover most of the time people don't know if something is worth paying for until they've seen it, and they probably resent paying for some things.


This is true. What I find puzzling is that advertisements have most of the same issues but many people accept them. You could argue that people's acceptance of ads suggests they should accept micropayments, or people's rejection of micro payments suggests they should reject ads. But I put up with ads and haven't signed up for any micro payment schemes yet.


Maybe mini-payments would be better than micro-payments, so long as there's a good it-just-works technology for doing them that minimizes user interaction.

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The history of the web is littered with the corpses of tipping companies because almost no one wants to tip on the web.

Same for micropayments. No one wants to think about if they should pay for an article even if it is only 1c.


I think it is littered with the corpses of tipping companies because no one wants to jump through hoops to use a proprietary tipping service. But if you go with pay pal, you can get tips:

http://micheleincalifornia.blogspot.com/2015/11/how-to-make-...


maybey you could have a default .01$ for all sites that are using the micropayment platform (somthing like a discus plugin), and then the option to give more if you really like. so you don't actaully need to think about it most of the time


I still have to decide if I want to pay $0.01 just to visit a page. For every page I want to open I have to go through the mental process of "Is this page worth $0.01?". And it is that cost which is why micropayments like that always fail.



Then do it well and become a billionaire. I think many have tried and there's a fundamental problem with the idea if it never works. It's not just a matter of doing it well, you have to fix whatever everyone else has missed. I think the problem is the idea itself, it would explain why nobody gets it right.


>imagine a world with no Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc

I would love that world. Of the things you listed the only one I have an account with is Twitter, and who knows how long that'll last.


> I don't like ads, but I like my free content, and ads are an acceptable way of financing it

When looking at that tradeoff most people seem to agree with you (or don't care to think about it), and some people disagree with you.

A note: So if you just feel like you don't care to make this same choice, I'm not talking to you and am just using your comment as a jumping off point. But you seem to be defending the advertising status quo on HN, and if you are then I am talking to you.

I've never found "But if people start making these choices my business model stops working!" be a particularly defensible argument to make. This is maybe the single place online where it is least needed for me to make this point, right?

But apparently not, especially when it's the so-called disruptors who are making it. This is a potentially popular service to provide people at the moment, the ability to protect themselves from their online habits being used to build profiles of them, and it would destroy the incumbent business model (advertising supported content using click tracking). This sounds like classic disruption to me, doing something good for the consumer [1] while opening up a huge gap for a new and inventive business model to fill the gap.

As everyone is no doubt aware at this moment, there is no ethical argument to be made to save this "content" as a whole. The fact we call it "content" at all means no one really needs to say this do they? It is not saving journalism, that is still dying. I'd put better odds on the next business model that emerges saving investigative journalism, because corporate sponsorship was the stupidest idea for saving it possible anyway.

[1] If you think that using personal information built on surveillance in order to influence purchasing decisions is pro-consumer you are lying to yourself. It is effective and profitable. As is combining it with fake reviews and lifestyle marketing using shame and FOMO.


>So at the end of the day there is still no viable alternative to advertising supported content.

Yes there is. Many creators successfully support themselves entirely based on Patreon.


Patreon is not going to replace all of the advertising supported websites...


Good!


I for one think killing content is a good thing. The web is full of garbage and it would be great to rid of 90% of it. Content for the sake of content does not deserve to exist.


Absolutely! The web is FULL of garbage! I get humor out of these posts on HN, because it's pretty clear there's the group of people (myself included) that see advertising as a kind of assault on free will (which it is), and then there's the group of people who are obviously running some kind of content or business supported by advertising who are reeling at the thought of people out there that are so militant against the means through which their business survives. Reading the comments here that are pro-advertising to me have every marker of "You are calling my business a pile of shit".


I don't run a business, and my employer doesn't even do advertising on the web AFAIK. But I do use the web quite a lot, and I wouldn't want to see it all go away. Even this site is basically a giant ad for Y Combinator that features smaller ads for Y Combinator companies. All of the news sites I read are supported by ads. Most of the discussion forums I've used have been supported by ads. I don't value ads — I value the web that they support.


What if that 90% included 99% of the good content? When you make web sites almost universally unprofitable, you're not going to just kill "content for the sake of content." You're going to kill content indiscriminately, including content that relies on a paywall rather than ads for revenue, because sites like that need to be featured on other sites (i.e. run ads) to get visitors.


Usability expert Jakob Nielsen wrote a solid proposal for micropayments back in 2001. I don't think anyone has ever seriously tried to implement his idea, so until someone does try we won't know if it could work well.

https://www.nngroup.com/articles/user-payments-predictions-f...


I think the fact that zero people, including Nielsen, have made a go of Nielsen's proposal in the fifteen years since speaks pretty strongly to its viability.


>Regarding #3, I'm personally 100% against any online advertising in any form.

What is your preferred method of paying people on the internet for their content? Do you think that micropayments would be a valid way to deal with this compensation gap?


Depends on the content. I like Patreon-style for YouTube, and that also occasionally fits with other things. I would also subscribe to a good source of news, though I haven't found one that qualifies as such yet.


Not the OP, but I prefer subscriptions. It's a direct exchange of money for value, and doesn't involve a creepy middleman whose incentive is to track you across the web.


I pay for the news that I read online by having subscribed to them also in paper form, or by paying taxes.

Most other services I use are paid via subscription fees, or are run ad-free by people as hobby projects.

Almost all the ad-supported services I use are monopolies anyway, have strict network lock-in effects, and shouldn't be in private hand anyway, instead they should be run by a cooperative, foundation, or government. (For example, web search, maps, phone books, etc).

This leaves us with a few ad-supported pages which likely couldn’t directly survive in this new environment, but which rely on content creators for their business anyway – such as YouTube.

For such cases, something like Flattr, but paid out by view, would be useful – something like the Datenträgerabgabe for the GEMA and VG Wort, but paid per month, not per empty CD bought.


What?

There is absolutely no criminal or civil statute nor legal principle in any American or European jurisdiction that binds users to respond to advertising in an accurate or forthright way.

To have such a law on the books would be utterly ridiculous: how could you ever prove in court that I did or didn't properly reflect my forthright intentions when I clicked on a "one weird trick" advertisement? And under what possible principle could I have implicitly contracted to give you an honest assessment of my interest in your advertisement?

Your proposition is perhaps one of the most insane ones I've ever heard argued about advertising, because it claims that you not only have a contractual right to knowledge of my consumerist tendencies, but -- amazingly -- that you believe that contract is with society writ large (i.e. where breach is a criminal fraud) rather than with you (i.e. civil breach) as a service provider.


> 2. This could hurt small startups that are very carefully managing an ad budget. They say the market will adjust, but until it does small startups take a hit. People we know.

There isn't a god-given right to make money via your chosen business model. Ads are a sleazy way to make money, and if you choose that, you should pay the consequences. Appealing to "people we know" as if that makes their behavior better? Ugh.

> 3. I dislike activism without clear objectives. I see no list of guidelines here or good behavior that companies could adopt to immediately place them on the side of the good guys.

I can't speak to the goals of everyone who is anti-advertising, but my goals here are:

1. Users should be customers, not products, so that companies act in the interest of users, not in the interest of other companies.

2. Users' attention should be respected, only giving users content they ask for.

3. Companies should create products users value enough to pay for, and compete on quality, rather than competing on how many users they can shove idealized presentations of their product (often outright lies) in front of.


  > 3. I dislike activism without clear objectives. I see no list of guidelines here or good behavior that companies could adopt to immediately place them on the side of the good guys.
Seems very clear to me: destroy advertising/advertisers. Where do I sign up?


I don't see how 1. applies. People using this plugin are not securing any gain and no one is being deprived of any right -- unless you use it on a website that first makes you explicitly accept to be tracked and served ads in exchange for the content.


There is nothing fraudulent about this. Clickable ads are put there to be clicked on. It's like inverse spam. Spam email is a nuisance because it's cheap to send to many. Well now it's cheap to click on many ads.


I think #3 is the key thing here.. Is this really activism or just vandalism?


If your cause is to decrease advertising on the web, and these actions diminish its effectiveness and potentially lead to decreased advertising in search of a better revenue stream, well that sounds like effective activism to me.


That doesn't mean it's not vandalism, too. The fact that no property is actually destroyed does mean that, but I think there is a qualitative difference between blocking ads and attempting to swamp ad-pricing signals with injected noise.


It's my bandwidth, my browser. I'll automate clicking any goddamn thing I like. Don't like it? Don't serve it.


This. Don't want me clicking on things? Don't send the URLs to me. <a href...> literally means "if you want to see this, go there".

(Now, generating new links with a for loop would be a crime, at least in the US, so I definitely won't do that.)


Ugh, we've had this argument so many times.. By your logic, the website operator can also say "it's my website, I'll serve the ads I want the way I want.. don't like it? don't visit my site"

And yet, there you are anyways, with your ad blocker.. hard to take the high ground I think..


> I'll serve the ads I want the way I want.

Indeed they should. In most cases, they still send the page when requested. The problems start when authors decide they don't just want to control what they serve at their website. The advertising model also requires control of the client to guarantee that the ads are shown.

That kind of control is possible with a contract (e.g. a paywall or similar controlled access). Instead, a lot of "content creators" want to have the benefits of a contract but only from one side.

> And yet, there you are anyways, with your ad blocker

So stop sending them data when they ask for it. In the meantime, ad blockers are going to show exactly how little some "content" was actually worth. If your content is worth so little that nobody is willing to pay for it in money or time, don't be surprised when attempts to force payment (in time or attention) results in blowback.

> hard to take the high ground I think

It isn't unethical to use as desired data that you were freely given. The only people that are ceding ethical high ground are "content creators" that want to control how people use their website. Delusional beliefs about what they think contract law ought to be is no substitute for a business model that understands what the internet actually is.

--

TL;DR - We aren't ethically obligated to prop up your business plan that relies on artificial scarcity. If you don't want people to read your web pages, stop sending those pages without pre-{payment,authorization}. I suggest finding a better business plan.


I don't believe I have said you should do otherwise.


If I don't have to worry about the police coming and knocking on my door then it is not vandalism.


> Is this really activism or just vandalism?

Analogy time. A guy sits outside my house with a camera, making pictures through a 10cm slit between the curtains. I come out of the house, take his camera and smash it. Vandalism? Don't think so. Activism? Not really. Basically, this is just self-protection. Preventing this from happening in the future (or at least making a good attempt at it).


With regard to the first point, maybe I'm just being naïve, but I could manually click on every ad with no intention of every purchasing everything, this just automates it.


>This could hurt small startups that are very carefully managing an ad budget.

I'm all for helping fellow startuppers, but no part of me feels that startups that buy ads are an endangered species worth nurturing. The whole ad model leaves the world worse off, and it sucks that startups are left with no option but to participate in it.


there is a lot of ways of doing advertisement, besides polluting people's browsers, give freebies, discounts, ...... etc.


1) If other people want to write contracts with each other that obligate them to do things for each other in response to bit patterns generated by my computer, that's none of my business.

Legally, you might get Tortious Interference pass the laugh test, but who is interfering? The author (if they're cautious) isn't running it, so you're likely looking at RIAA-style fishing for IP addresses for random people who installed the plugin and contributed a tiny amount, and we've seen that show already[1].

2) It could. Things have hard-to-predict effects. I see no reason why I should weight small startups as more important than the set of everyone disgusted by the invasion of every metaphorical orifice with surveillance tentacles.

3) Good on ya.

I don't know if I'm going to run this plugin or not. But this is exactly the sort of thing needed to level the playing field between the commercial surveillance shops (Facebook, Google, the other ad shops, on down the spectrum to phishers and other outright criminals) and actual humans.

We know that any form of legal or illegal online surveillance that has a chance of being commercially self-sustaining will be at least trialed. This has been demonstrated repeatedly. Legally, this is difficult to address sensibly because of the mismatch between the legal system speed and the tech-landscape speed (not to mention the inevitable unintended-consequence shakeouts, and the slowness of general wisdom in times of change). And that's even if assuming the Powers that Be want to address them, which is unlikely in the U.S. while a con-artist setting the agenda.

So that leaves making as much of the surveillance business model untenable as possible. I don't know what the right approach is, but it will likely be one that involves feeding the watchers lies.

I really don't like pissing on other people's work. But if that work is dedicated to things that make my life worse, I retain a right to, among other things, lie to their creation out of self-defense. It is that simple.

Random, related aside: I'm unlikely to have time to make this happen, but one thing I've thought would be fun is to see about how tricky it would be to repurpose some test equipment to be, say, a whole herd of Bluetooth phones[2] taking a walk by those iBeacons. Being more subtle would likely be a lot more fun, depending on the target, and would serve as a useful reminder of what 'unlicensed spectrum' means.

[1] Spoiler, here's the ending: https://popehat.com/2016/12/16/the-prenda-saga-goes-criminal...

[2] What's the collective noun for phones?


> one thing I've thought would be fun is to see about how tricky it would be to repurpose some test equipment to be, say, a whole herd of Bluetooth phones[2] taking a walk by those iBeacons.

I suppose it wouldn't. You probably wouldn't even need to leave home more than once - to read beacon data with a BLE debugging tool like nRF Connect. BLE beacons are broadcasting devices - they don't talk with your phone, they're just shouting "I'm here"! All data the vendor can get must come from an application on your phone. Hence, just capture what it's sending, fire up a VM cluster and have fun.

Hell, I might try doing that one of these days.


yeah, that's great thanks.

Internet advertisers are almost 100% reprehensible and fully deserving of what happens to them. They've spent years pissing in the pool, there is zero reason they shouldn't be force-fed the results.

The key moral argument in play in this entire matter is: "fuck these people and fuck everything about them." I owe advertisers nothing. They are loathsome abominations and have turned the Internet into surveillance capitalism malware soup. Causing them pain is pretty much an ethical obligation.

(BTW, I was surprised and pleased AdNauseam didn't act against Project Wonderful, the closest I've seen to a non-reprehensible advertising network and one I unblocked specifically in uBO. But the rest can frankly go and get fucked.)


Good. I'm done being nice to advertisers.

They are actively poisoning the internet in more ways than one.

They had their chance to work out better ways to advertise, and they instead redoubled assaults on attention.

This is getting installed on all of my browsers on all of my PCs. If your startup is advertising based, find a different model, or do without my business. I have no obligation to help you fund yourself or use your product if I find the monetization model insidious.


clicking all the advertisers links seems like an awfully nice thing to do for them, assuming they're paid per click


It may seem nice at the beginning, but as you saturate the service with fake clicks, the PPC value will drop to near-zero.


Some keywords are so competitive that they have PPC rates that are close to $100 PER CLICK

For example, anything related to pyramid schemes like Xango, Avon, etc. Keyword space is SUPER competitive for "indenependent distributors" and so their PPC rates are through the roof


MLMs seem like one of the best target for indiscriminate application of AdNauseam, for more than one reason.


Assuming they don't know how to separate fake clicks, which can be done within a reasonable level of accuracy. It ends up being a war between digital ad agencies and the users. I can see who has the most motivation here and therefore higher chances of winning.


Tangential, but makes me think: could all those happy campers who like to DDoS GitHub and Freenode in their spare time target an ad bidding node instead? I'd love to see that happen. Do it for teh good old-school lulz.


Hum... I just thought that we rarely see here a tech showdown from ad companies, or employees (It might be because they'd be bullied to hell), for what we know they could have the most impressive anti-DDoS tech in the world.


Well it would be nice if you could whitelist sites you think are worth the clicks. So, sites you like get a lot more click revenue, because you clicked every add. While the desired effect of diluting PPC would be reduced, you wouldn't be giving revenue to sites that you don't think are worth it.


agred 100%


How do you feel about paywalls?


Paywalls has a very drastic effect on companies that depend on their articles and videos to get shared on social networks and news aggregates. If they wall in their content then they will also only reach people within that wall.

If they are small enough, niche enough, or entrenched enough, then it sometimes seems to work for a limited time. Personally I don't find it a major threat.


The problem is you're viewing advertisers as a monolith.


And advertisers view us as commodities.

Broad strokes and wide assumptions go both ways.


Aren't they? I thought 90% of ads would be spread over a tiny handful of advertisers.


What I'd really like is something that uses stylometry to track astroturfer comments, shills, fake news authors, advertisements parading as news, and PR campaigns, etc. Then just have those articles identified on places like Hacker News, Reddit, etc. Optional to block them if you want.

Keep a list of identified writers/writer 'styles' that are penned by fraudsters. Like easy-list is for ads.

That'd be the only way to clean up to the net. For a while at least.


The problem is the subjectivity of half the items on your list.


I dislike ads as much as the next person (and indeed run uBlock on nearly every site), but I'd feel wrong using this because of the cost to the advertisers. It would be further lining the pockets of ad networks while increasing expenses for, at least in some cases, legitimate businesses. Sure, it's a bit of fighting fire with fire, but I'd rather not be an unnecessary expense for someone in my fight against intrusive ads.


>> because of the cost to the advertisers

Odds are that this addon doesn't actually trick the major advertisers whatsoever.

1. Any user/session that is seen clicking many ads across many different domains will quickly have their entire history ignored. You can bet that if your browser is seen clicking 1,000 ads across 10 domains in one day, that your assault will be completely ignored and have exactly zero effect against the network or its advertisers.

2. If the addon manually triggers click events on hidden elements, then the ad network likely has javascript detecting these clicks as invalid and ignoring those impressions. a) Any element that is not visible on screen has events ignored - it will check for display:none, visibility:hidden, as well as common off-viewport positioning, transparency tricks, etc. b) When you manually trigger a browser event on an element, no event object is passed to the event handler, meaning those events are easy to detect and dismiss.

Networks aren't guaranteed to implement #2, and any implementation may not be very sophisticated, but I'd bet a good penny that there is at least a basic client-side line of defense. If you manage to outsmart the client-side implementation, you're still very unlikely to outsmart the server-side analytics, where people who live and breathe this industry have spent over a decade writing software to analyze every ad click, specifically to not be fooled by such a naive attempt to hurt their business.


Advertisers will just lower their bids, so it mostly hurts the publishers of the websites you visit.


> Advertisers will just lower their bids, so it mostly hurts the publishers of the websites you visit.

... who will then have to revert to a more sane monetization scheme, which doesn't mess with their visitors' data.


I doubt it. More likely, who will progress to even more insane monetization schemes...


The law is the ceiling, per the wise saw that any sufficiently advanced business model is indistinguishable from a scam. I hope we'll reach peak insanity soon, and then some trace amount of humanity will return to the industry.


I understand where you're coming from, but this seems an awfully aggressive way to send that message to websites that you presumably like and find useful. Merely blocking ads isn't enough?


There have already been multiple attempts at allowing acceptable, quality ads. Nobody played along. Subtle didn't cut it, so now we're escalating to aggressive.

Advertisers had their chance and they blew it. No sympathy from me


Whatever works. If advertisers and their apologists express pain at a given action, it's probably an action worth trying. (source: the comments on this page.)


Not if advertising is what brings in sales. I've seen my ad prices go up every year. I can't lower bids or my ads don't show and I won't get sales.


I'm using it now precisely because of the cost to advertisers. They can all get fucked.


Hm...

From the perspective of the ad network:

Lower click quality drives up the merchant's cost of sale (COS). Sitting between the merchant and the publisher, the ad network tries to balance this out, by

  - mixing good and bad traffic sources
  - encouraging the merchant to spend more money 
    so they can buy better traffic and/or rank the offers higher on their publisher's sites
  - punishing the publisher for sending bad traffic by lowering the amount the publisher is paid for each click
  - filtering out extraordinarily bad traffic
AdNauseam will increase the amount of bad traffic. Merchants have to pay more money to get their ads through to those people who do not create fraudulent clicks. Publishers will receive less money per click. Ad networks will try harder to invade your privacy(1) so they can get more comprehensive data about those people who are worthy to be targeted. Startups which promise to detect fake traffic will get a boost. Companies which manage advertising via social influencers or in-game mobile ads etc cannot care less.

I do not see the direct benefit of this for the end user...

(1) for example by paying more money to antivirus providers to send your browsing habits their way.

edit: formatting


> I do not see the direct benefit of this for the end user...

The hope is that publishers will understand why they're getting hit by the collateral of the fake-click barrage and move out of the blast range by changing their ads into unobtrusive ones, or even moving away from ads entirely into models like:

- treating your webpage as an investment

- sponsorship / patronage

- subscriptions

- paywalls

Additional hope is that the whole ad industry finally implodes.


How naïve. You think the entire advertising industry is going to throw their hand up and say "Hey, you got us. We'll just cave to your demand and drastically reduce our profits"?

This will just be another volley in the ever escalating ad arms race.


It creates opportunity for disruption. The established players see their costs go up and effectiveness go down. A new player comes in who has non-obtrusive ads, and sees outsized success. Everyone else either dies off or fast-follows.

I'm curious how The Deck is doing these days, seemed like they could have been that player.


So lets imagine somehow beyond all odds this doesn't result in escalation and actually has the effect you describe;

How does AdNuseum detect the good from the bad?

How does a "good" advertiser submit themselves to some kind of whitelist?

How does AdNuseum verify the advertisers claims?


> How does AdNuseum detect the good from the bad?

It doesn't. Or it gets evolved until it does, but there's no incentive to do that while there are very little "good" ads.

> How does a "good" advertiser submit themselves to some kind of whitelist?

They don't, that's the point. As AdNauseam currently works, there are no good advertisers, and for now it's a good enough heuristic. Any ad with an active component is a legitimate target.

> How does AdNuseum verify the advertisers claims?

It doesn't. It does not care.


AdBlock Plus is already doing this: https://adblockplus.org/acceptable-ads

It might just lead to escalation, it has so far. The point is there is a plausible way forward. It's the story of countless industries, just because it hasn't happened yet for this one doesn't mean it won't ever.


> I do not see the direct benefit of this for the end user...

Even in the long term? If plugins like this are super effective, then the value of tracking becomes less than the cost of doing it. Eventually, advertising might revert to a less intrusive model like billboards or magazine ads.


> I do not see the direct benefit of this for the end user...

I posted it to my Facebook earlier. So far the response has been unbridled glee. I think you're tremendously underestimating the sheer joy people have at being handed a method of striking back at the people making their lives a misery, and need to recalibrate your model of how people will react to this.


Okay, I see the appeal of sticking it to the man (in this case, the privacy invading tracking agency). If I could have an addon that _reliably_ hides my web browsing habits from advertisers and evil government agencies while making their life harder, that would be cool.

I just do not see how this act of online vigilantism is going to change things or help. The cost that merchants encounter are opaque, they have mostly no control over the publishing side, if they even know where their ads are shown at all. So, advertising gets more expensive, but as one commentator here said: "I must advertise, else I will have no sales at all."

Lastly, to click on an ad, the user will most likely need to execute the javascript associated with the ad. At that moment, they already have been tracked, and any malicious drive-by-downloads will run on their machine. Clicking on all ads you encounter will just make your browsing trail that much wider (user reads HackerNews, browses late in the morning, stays long on sites with cat memes), and your unique browser footprint will be associated cross device with your profile so you get more targeted ads on your mobile devices.


I block all ads, tracking, beacons, etc. because they are now the single largest vector for malware.

I use Firefox largely because it's the most hackable browser. I tweak Firefox to do and not do several things:

- I don't allow sites to see my history - I don't allow peerconnect - I don't allow WebRTC (shows private address schemas) - I don't allow much JS - I don't allow fingerprinting beyond pure basics - I don't allow HTTP/S referrer

I do block everything not associated with the pure content of the page. This is getting more difficult, but the tools to help are keeping pace.


starting point to those who ask :p

http://12bytes.org/articles/tech/firefoxgecko-configuration-...

Yes, this makes my fingerprint highly unique, no good way around that yet, but I use multiple instance of Firefox for different purposes as mitigation


Would you mind elaborating on the tools you use?


Sorry for the delay in answering your question. I don't use anything elaborate.

I use the following Firefox addons:

- uBlock Origin

- Disconnect

- Decentraleyes

- Webmail Ad Blocker

I make the following changes in Firefox's about:config:

layout.css.visited_links_enabled (Toggle to false)

media.peerconnection.enabled (Toggle to false)

network.prefetch-next (Toggle to false)

network.http.sendRefererHeader (Set to 0 (zero))

network.http.sendSecureXSiteReferer (Set to false)

I also sometimes set dom storage to false, but this can sometimes interfere with some webmail clients.

If you're unsure of a setting, reference the Mozilla KB: http://kb.mozillazine.org/About:config_entries


You realize that by blocking all that stuff you're only making your fingerprint more unique?


I'll second _tulpa's request. It would be nice to see your configuration for this.


At first I thought this was a great idea, but then I thought about it more. I think this is the digital equivalent of an angry mob throwing bricks through windows. We aren't doing any good, just destroying the community we live in. What would it be like if all the content creators that are incentivized by ad revenue lost their revenue? And we lost their content? I don't like being placed into an artificial bubble of customized content by tracking services, but i don't think this is the solution.


False dichotomy. There is a third alternative: a non-abusive advertising model takes over the industry.

It's certainly plausible. All pre-internet advertising avoided tracking of individuals. There exist even now advertising agencies that cannot possibly serve up malware to their customers. Arguably Google achieved its great success by being a less-abusive advertising platform in its day.


What advertising model are you suggesting? Perhaps it could be added to the Readme on the repo to help point advertisers in the right direction.


Clicking ads isn't vandalism, property destruction, or incitement to riot. Describing automated following of ad URLs as an "angry mob throwing bricks through windows" misleadingly associates an ad clicker with violence. This is a problem because it tends to lead to ...

> destroying the community we live in.

... thinking in terms of violence.


They aren't losing their revenue. They are losing a poor method for generating said revenue. Revenue can and is gained via better methods.


As someone in another, related, thread said: AdNauseum users will account for X% of clicks, and advertisers/publishers will simply take clicks - X% to get the real number, and we're back to where we started. (EDIT: credit where credit is due: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13221653)


Who cares? The privacy increase should be worth it. The tracking is the problem, not the ads themselves.

(edit: if it works. someone else has written that these fake clicks simply get filtered)


It would take a while for the ad industry to adapt to that. Also there might be technical limitations.


I was the one who made the original comment. The ad industry does not have to adopt at all, because they use a bidding system. Just advertisers have to adopt by bidding less. Sophisticated advertisers will automatically do that because they keep track of conversions.


Maybe an auto-clicker could use ABP's acceptable ads filter to focus on reducing the effectiveness of "unacceptable" ads. (But the ad networks are just going to figure out how to detect the clicks and mark them fraudulent anyway.)


It's essentially just another form of click fraud, which is a tricky problem but the ad industry already largely has tools in place to deal with it.


If I'm already blocking the ads and their tracking scripts, why would I let it load them first, 'click' them and then block them afterwards?

Doesn't it just re-open the attack vector?


I'd love for this to be inside some kind of proxy server - stripping ads for my browsing whilst simultaneously clicking every one of them under a fake profile of some kind...


Ok, so I may or may not have actually used this extension in the past (I may or may not be really vague as I don't really understand if this is legally fraud). The extension may or may not suck really bad. It may or may not lock up your browser when it clicks all the ads on a site. It may or may not 'work' at all in conjunction with TrackMeNot (a similar extension that flak-cannons trackers) and BSOD your laptop all the frickin time. I may or may not have uninstalled the extension within a hour due to how bad things got.

I think it's a fun concept, but the implementation of it may or may not be something that you want to fight with for less than a day before swearing it off. It's possibly so bad that I think it may have been written in order to turn people off from this 'attack' towards trackers as it may or may not remind one of the repulsion that rotten milk has upon first sniff.


Don't worry! I've been using it all today and so far it's had none of the bad effects you describe whatsoever. I plan to continue using it.

It does actually let through ads uBO doesn't (though it embeds uBO and uses the same filter lists), but nothing I can't live with. Doing my bit to make Internet advertisers' lives that little bit more miserable is pretty much an ethical obligation at this stage.

The FAQ does say only to run it if you know what you're doing. But I think anyone who reads HN will have no problems whatsoever in running this extension. If they do, the code's right there.


this is so crazy it might work.

Automatically sending the click beacon for every blocked ad will increase advertising costs but it will also increase vendor profits, motivating them to add even more ads.

Until the 3rd party click validators start to filter out clicks generated by this somehow. And then we will have yet another arms-race besides the adblockers one.


Not really. It mostly just devalues the ad units. Since none of these fake clicks result in any action on the advertiser's site, the per-click price the advertiser is willing to spend goes way down.

And at least in its current implementation, I would guess most 3rd party click validators already filter it out.

(disclaimer: ad-supported news sites pay my bills)


We are all going to need a lot more bandwidth!


bandwidth nowadays is a given. the only problem now is latency. but we don't care about that for background stuff.


So true! Latency may be very difficult to reduce given our reliance on the internet protocol.


I feel like this would be better if it didn't click every ad, but had some sort of method (even if it was random) to pick ads.


Seems like it'd be easy enough to slap in there

https://github.com/dhowe/AdNauseam/blob/master/src/js/adn/co...


I'd considered doing that in Ad Limiter, but didn't want the headaches. I was considering replying to all ad links from an add-on to see where they ended up after redirection, so the final destination site could be rated properly. But the bandwidth usage is excessive.

I should try sending HEAD requests to ad servers, to see if they return a redirect. No idea what the ad brokerage systems will do with those.


Worst case is if this leads to "sponsored stories" where an article is about one thing and they sneak an infomercial in there for ad revenue but in a very subtle way such that it doesn't name a product even.

Effectively, this would make it impossible to tell ads from not-ads leading to a much worse experience for everyone.


Which ever publisher that do so hopefully live in a country which doesn't have advertisement laws (and tax laws, if they try to be sneaky with the source of this new revenue). There is currently several cases in Sweden, and I heard similar tales in several other countries including the U.S.

I would say that for once, the law is actually catching up with Internet activity that would clearly be illegal if done on a physical paper.


How can it possibly be illegal? I can understand if it's a public newspaper, but private media companies can do whatever they want.

Like are you going to fine a movie studio for having an actor in a movie drinking Coca-Cola or driving a Volvo?

Which specific laws are banning this practice in Sweden for private entities?


> are you going to fine a movie studio for having an actor in a movie drinking Coca-Cola or driving a Volvo?

Just a few months ago a case was started in Sweden based on such situation. The movie studio got hit by breach of contract by the publisher along with charges of illegal advertisement.

> Which specific laws are banning this practice in Sweden for private entities?

Marknadsföringslagen (2008:486) is the primary source for laws that regulate advertisement for private entities, however there is actually more. The European Advertising Standards Alliance has a local representation called Reklamombudsmannen, which is a self-regulating entity for advertisement. This one has some support by law, and some support by other means such as black-lists, and can issue fines. Last there is also the International Chamber of Commerce. Publishers in any form of media can also loose the right to publish, which is an automatic granted right which the court can take away. Since TV and radio is attached to spectrum allocation, there is also additional conditions on them in regard to advertisement (which is the reason why the movie studio got hit by a breach of contract in the above case).


If everyone allowed normal ads through, advertisers wouldn't sit back and say "Well done everyone. Time for us to stop doing sponsored stories! Back to the old model!". They'd still be attacking on two fronts. This just prevents one avenue of attack.


Well, with the current model they would have no other choice if they want to survive and remain free.

Realistically though, I have very low expectations for this to actually happen. I know many people who still haven't installed any ad blockers.


Well yeah, "the current model" is the problem everyone is complaining about.

Patreon, Kickstarter, micropayments, etc. There are multiple ways for sites to generate revenue that don't involve advertisements.


From a privacy perspective, is there a difference between never clicking an ad and clicking all the ads?


I like to fight against invasive ads by using Google Contributor, which prevents Google-based ad networks from even serving me the content. That way, the sites I use are still supported and I am seemingly protected.

Only costs me a couple bucks a month too.


Hm... The element picker doesn't seem to work, and the default color-scheme is horrible. I don't see any way to change that. I like the premise though. Hopefully it will improve with time.


This is literally a link to the code :-)


I don’t like this. While I strongly oppose tracking and have a variety of privacy extensions installed on my browser, clicking on ads is simply wrong. Someone will have to pay for those clicks. Not to mention that if something like this gets wide adoption then it will make click fraud detection even harder. A bunch of browser sessions randomly clicking on ads will have no difference from a bot doing the same thing.


> Someone will have to pay for those clicks. Not to mention that if something like this gets wide adoption then it will make click fraud detection even harder. A bunch of browser sessions randomly clicking on ads will have no difference from a bot doing the same thing.

I believe that's the point of it.


While I don't believe this works (clicks filtered etc) I don't mind screwing over the advertising websites in addition to the ad networks and the advertisers.

If you try to finance your site using tracking ads, or if you advertise through networks that use invasive tracking ads, or you are a network that distribute such ads - then I have no problem helping taking you out of business.


> Someone will have to pay for those clicks

Someone will get infected with malware by using the shady ad-network with a higher revenue, so what's the difference?


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