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Google 'colluded' with Facebook to bypass Apple privacy (theregister.com)
808 points by webmaven 89 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 246 comments

Facebook and Google have a long history of illegal activities. If they colluded like a "cartel", they should be treated like a cartel. The problem is both sides of the aisle have are irreparably entangled with big tech and cannot be trusted to prosecute not just fine them a paltry some that is insufficient to correct their behavior. People have gone to jail for weed longer than anyone in power at big tech has paid for their gross violations of trust and privacy of the entire world.


Someone believes cartels are just for drugs here is a link about some of our remedies:


The DOJ can raid them, and states attorney's can file separate suits. Perhaps there is one state government that hasn't succumbed to the corruption.

Political entanglements aren't the half of it. Facebook and Google (Alphabet) make up about 6% of the S&P500 by market cap, and that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how much of the global economy depends on the online advertising market. Nobody wants to risk popping that bubble.

Something like that concurrent with the Evergrande bs in China, the pandemic, ect. seems like a recipe for a financial disaster. I agree Facebook should be dealt with, but let's have a few quarters of normalcy beforehand.

The politicians and policy makers have failed in their job to come up with a well developed policy addressing various impact of new technology , partly because they do not understand it and do not have the expertise to solve it. They however have been successful in covering their ineptitude by diverting the general public’s attention and putting the tech companies in the defendants chair in the public court and this shifting the blame from the government to the tech companies. And then they of course get profited from lobbyist efforts and the huge spend behind them. It all works to the politicians benefits and they can shrink from their responsibility of coming up with same legislation and finish the endless debate , which frankly is getting tiring.

This take isn’t uncommon but I think it’s far too simple. We do have members of Congress with CS degrees but they all have advisors and groups like the Congressional Research Service because nobody is an expert on everything. The problem isn’t lack of knowledge but the fact that this isn’t happening in a vacuum.

The lobbyists you mentioned, for example, aren’t like mosquitoes which just show up in DC — companies and industry groups hire them to make sure members of Congress hear their preferences. Some are hired by tech companies, others by their opponents or special interest groups. The tech companies have a ton of money and an enviable reputation as one of the best growth industries for the future so they’ve been very successful at preventing or defanging regulation. That doesn’t mean that people don’t know what’s going on – more commonly, they don’t think it’s a problem, know they don’t have the votes, or have other priorities.

"The politicians and policy makers have failed in their job to come up with a well developed policy addressing various impact of new technology , partly because they do not understand it and do not have the expertise to solve it."

Agreed, and one of the reasons for the failure of policy is the millions of dollars spent by companies like Google and Facebook in lobbying and spreading FUD among politicians and the GP alike.

That said, eventually some remedial laws will have to filter through, as you cannot keep sweeping shit under the carpet and ignoring it forever.

However, that's when the real problems of policing new laws begin, as the long and tortured history of trying to get corporations to comply with laws repeatedly attests. Cigarette companies deliberately lying and obfuscating the truth about the dangers of cigarettes for decades is a quintessential example.

The only surefire way of resolving this is to simultaneously legislate that company employees are equally liable under the law for a company's violations of the law. This would mean that employees would be in violation of the law if they engaged in or formulated company policies that violated the law or if they learned about such violations and did nothing about them.

In essence, as employees could no longer hide behind corporate structures, self preservation would kick in and to save themselves from possible prosecution they would make the company's wrongdoing public. (There is little doubt that this would be very effective law if penalties were high enough.)

The fact that laws aren't already properly framed in this way shows how successful corporate influence has been on government policy up until now.

If citizens feel sufficiently strongly about this then they'll be politically motivated to do something about it. Personally, I find it very odd that there hasn't been a general call from the citizenry along these lines long ago.

The fact that all past blustering about corporate misbehavior has amounted to essentially nothing and that there has been no change of any significe along these lines to remedy matters tells me that either the general public doesn't really care sufficiently about the issue and or that too many people own shares in corpations and thus have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

We already know big technology companies behave like cartels in other ways. For example there was the famous case of agreements not to poach from each other. In the end all they got for that was a slap on the wrist. All the workers were never properly compensated for it.

When your best example is over a decade old, it's hard to see it as evidence of rampant cartel behaviour.


> The DOJ can raid them, and states attorney's can file separate suits.

Are you talking about the DOJ and many state governments run by people that received donations and support from Google and Facebook?

Let me know when a politician bites the hand that fed them.

The only get donations for their campaigns. If tech companies give evenly to both parties, it wouldn't matter to politicians if those donations stopped. If one party gets more than the other, one party would gain, relatively, if donations became illegal.

So the story isn't quite complete without mentioning: It's mostly the Republican party that has stopped acting in ways that could be considered good for the country. It's gotten so bad they are actively trying to undermine democracy in every imaginable way, including opposing any constraints on campaign donations and even the regular application of the few safeguards left after Citizen United.

> If they colluded like a "cartel", they should be treated like a cartel

Are you suggesting we use their distribution networks to move crack in to the cities, then use the money made to fund illegal interventions in South America?

Seems a bit extreme, i'd say just break them up.

Cartels aren't just for drugs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoebus_cartel) but I agree, break them up.

it was meant in jest because the CIA directly participated in the drug trade as uncovered by investigative journalist Gary Webb (who died from two gunshot wounds to the head...).

"Michael Cuesta’s movie 'Kill the Messenger' tells the story of Gary Webb, whose August 1996 investigative series “Dark Alliance,” published in the San Jose Mercury News, uncovered ties between the Central Intelligence Agency and massive drug peddling by the right-wing, mercenary Nicaraguan Contras. Webb’s three-part series established that in the 1980s the CIA-backed Contras smuggled cocaine into the US that was widely distributed as crack. The drug profits were then funneled by the CIA to the Contras in their war against the left-nationalist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

source: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/17/kill-o17.html

Jest might be too trivial but yes...

The CIA meet all of their own criteria to be a terrorist organisation.

Who wants to bet that the CIA has been politely sitting on their hands when it comes to the ad network cartels? Not me.

> both sides of the aisle have are irreparably entangled with big tech and cannot be trusted to prosecute not just fine them a paltry some that is insufficient to correct their behavior

When did so many on Hacker News become so pathetically fatalistic? I expect this from spoiled teenagers, not hackers of all people.

That position isn't fatalistic. The barriers to a political solution leave open the potential for a technical one, which is just what you would expect from a hacker.

Alright, lads, we can't rely on the government for this one, how are we going to do it?

Here's why FB is in no danger until at least 2024: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/gop-furious-zuckerbe.... Don't hold your breath on this, at all. It's all for sale, and Zuck is buying.

To what end though?

Ownership aside isn’t big tech something of an expert workers council?

If there’s literal logistics value to these systems we’ll build them anyway.

Political labels like cartel help politicians sell us on big ownership.

Let’s do novel things literally and ditch figurative political tradition. No more political tradition, no more big corp.

Obviously it can’t happen over night. We could invoke old politics or let big tech takeover the world and let workers takeover big tech as they forget about politics

> has paid for their gross violations of trust and privacy of the entire world.

Sorry, but who are you to speak for the entire world? You may not like facebook and google personally, but it is far streach to think you know to represent one country let alone the whole world.

For one thing, your are not speaking for myself: both google and facebook are some of the best tech I enjoy using every day, and they have and are improving mylife daily. They did not violate my trust in any way.

And for your allegations, can you provide any proof for it? Even out of respect for the community, so here supporting material not just words, in the air is what appreciated the most.

What I don't understand, is how a tendentious hateful post is not downvotes here on HN?

Who is anyone to speak for the entire world? But we still get to speak.

> And for your allegations, can you provide any proof for it?

Read any of the half dozen articles on the front page this morning detailing google’s behavior. Or the links in TFA.

> What I don't understand, is how a tendentious hateful post is not downvotes here on HN?

Turns out that person does speak for a whole lot of people.

> Who is anyone to speak for the entire world? But we still get to speak.

So why then speak for the "entire world"? It would be much better phrased if some one wrote: "*in my opinion* the entire world is ... ", even this small addition of "in my opinion" makes for a much more serious discourse, I believe.

From my personal experience, when I check a random sample of some of the accusations against facebook, then they all seem to be a misrepresentation of facebook...

For the last part, I don't think HN is anywhere repesenatative of even the opinion of US, let alone the whole world. So not sure why you decide to mention that a lot of people on HN might agree with the op, what does it contribute to the discussion?

> And for your allegations, can you provide any proof for it?

Actually, yes. The reason this is news is because it was recently unredacted from internal Google documents submited to the court:


So the court is not over yet? The allegation might not be proven true?

It's not an allegation, it was in Google's internal documents discovered during a trial. The facts they represent aren't conditional on the outcome of said trial.

This sounds like what a client of a drug dealer would say.

There has been plenty of proof of illegal (downright malicious) behavior in multiple dimension by big tech (anti competitive, anti privacy, bad security practices, keeping wages low, lying in front of congress, inciting (or at least turning a blind eye on) war, genocide and riots, the list goes on...) and new revelations like these here are showing up nearly daily. Especially in the ad industry incentives are not aligned.

The problem is that fines (which is proof of their illegal actions, since you asked for proof) are always very low - so companies design their actions with that in mind.

> This sounds like what a client of a drug dealer would say.

Maybe it's an indication that you are so impartial that you equate facebook with drug dealer?

It seems you have a similar association for Facebokks brand! Nowhere in my comment did I mention Facebook directly.

Google/Facebook doing shady things to undermine user privacy is a generally accepted fact in this community, so I think that the title understates the severity of the allegations in the article!

It contends that there was collusion between Google and Facebook to protect their abuses of dominance in the marketplace:

"Google quickly realized that this innovation substantially threatened its exchange’s ability to demand a very large – 19 to 22 percent – cut on all advertising transactions,"


"However, Google secretly made its own exchange win, even when another exchange submitted a higher bid,"


"And as one Google employee explained internally, Google deliberately designed Jedi to avoid competition, and Jedi consequently harmed publishers. In Google’s words, the Jedi program 'generates suboptimal yields for publishers and serious risks of negative media coverage if exposed externally.'"


"For example, Google and Facebook have integrated their software development kits (SDKs) so that Google can pass Facebook data for user ID cookie matching," the amended complaint says. "They also coordinated with each other to harm publishers through the adoption of Unified Pricing rules…"

I wonder what Google's take on this is. The system is so incomprehensibly complicated they can hide behind that. The FB relationship to me seems like it would be harder to explain away.

Maybe Google could say they are including quality & spam in their winning bid selection instead of only highest price.

Also conversion optimized bidding messes things up/more complicated the highest CPM might not be the best or most profitable ad for them to clear (another problem when they own all sides of the transaction).

FB for instance say they take ad quality, engagement, & predicted user behaviors into account when choosing winning ads not just price - which is also transparent..

Another thing is publishers can usually set floors and optimize for specific bid sources, like newssite.com could let their IOs win bids until it's filled even at a lower CPM.

Or also clear rates, like maybe an SSP bids $100 but it doesn't go through/get paid?

I'm pretty sure all of this is common.

Every advertiser auction selects the winning bid on a combination of the bid price per click as well as the quality of the ad because per-click payment means they want to optimize for the highest expected revenue - if nobody clicks on your shitty ad, Google makes less.

Then there's the added little bit around optimizing for secondary objectives like user engagement so that you don't kill the golden goose by running shocking/negative but highly clicked ads.

I actually don't think the system is "incomprehensibly complicated," but it is opaque.

Yup that's my take. I think this is pretty one sided, but good look explaining what we're talking about to a jury or even some DA somewhere.

I have never worked at google or done anything close to the scale or complexity of building galactic sized RTB networks, but from their papers and the couple people I've talked to they put insanely impressive work into the beast. I'm sure there are all kinds of auction dynamics that I can't even imagine just because of their scale.

Good points but “ad quality” and “predicted user behaviors” are subjective and therefore not transparent.

Making that public would enable SEO but on steroids.

I just wonder who in management positions thought this was a good idea (in both companies) and green lighted it?

Someone whose bonus is based on profits.

And who has probably moved on already.

Someone who gets prison time I hope.

Management is full of idiots

As is any other field of human activity, including software development.

I find test gateways (although they are unpopular) pretty good at selecting intelligent peers.

Horizontal management transfers don't have that.

> It contends that there was collusion between Apple and Facebook to protect their abuses of dominance in the marketplace


Thanks! Fixed

> "And as one Google employee explained internally, Google deliberately designed Jedi to avoid competition, and Jedi consequently harmed publishers. In Google’s words, the Jedi program 'generates suboptimal yields for publishers and serious risks of negative media coverage if exposed externally.'

Lol I guess that employee missed the training where they tell you not to put this stuff in writing.

Break these companies up, vertically. For social medias: cleave advertising from search.

People would rightly scream if NYSE was owned and operated by a cabal, playing both sides of every transaction.

One pillar of open markets is clear division of responsibilities. To prevent this kind of market manipulation.

No conflicts of interest. No competing with your own customers. No hiding important economic (market) activity.

> For social medias: cleave advertising from search.

I would make a slightly smaller claim. Google Search should still be able to operate adwords, but they shouldn't simultaneously be able to operate the marketplace.

Similarly, I don't think Amazon ought to be able to operate a marketplace as well as selling Amazon branded goods.

> Similarly, I don't think Amazon ought to be able to operate a marketplace as well as selling Amazon branded goods.

There is a long precedence for that though. Companies like Walmart and countless other retailers have been doing that for decades.

That said I would mind it being outlawed.

Agree on both. Thanks for help clarifying.

Search is very expensive business to run Yahoo! and MSFT tried and still they are at behind. Will you pay $$ for each search query? Easy to asking breaking up these companies. Will you help all small business and companies relying on free internet products?

Google can sell search ads on an ad exchange that they don't operate. They shouldn't be able to simultaneously operate a major seller and the exchange.

Yahoo! and MSFT tried doing same, selling Bing search ads on Yahoo ad exchange. Didn't work well and can't scale it. And these are Google innovation why should they not use it.

Is it fair to ask some other ad exchanges to run ads on NYTimes or CNN, Fox news?

> selling Bing search ads on Yahoo ad exchange. Didn't work well and can't scale it.

I don't see your point. There are millions of ads currently sold on existing exchanges by third parties, why are you claiming it can't scale?

> Is it fair to ask some other ad exchanges to run ads on NYTimes or CNN, Fox news?

I don't understand your point. None of those news organizations operate an ads exchange.

This is well expressed, the NYSE analogy is sound and speaks to the heart of the thing.

How do we make it happen?

What's the point. Even if you break it up, both companies can just work together and you end up with the name result except with some different paperwork that no one cares about.

Brief note about this vs. yesterday's threads:

People who think the tech giants maintain their dominance via patents are 60 years behind the times. It's network effect plus some outright illegality like this.

If this is true, unless they get fined in the order of $200B it won't matter and whoever made the decisions will get promoted within both companies. Snapchat lost ~25% of their market value and other companies that did not collude probably also lost a lot.

Can we just step back and recognise that the elephant in the room here is advertising?

No matter your views on Google, Apple or Facebook, the issue here is nefarious practices predicated on the implied right for these companies to make money from you by polluting your internet experience with injected, paid for, content.

I'll play devil's advocate for a second and say that "not all advertising is bad", but the fact that this even reached court should tell you what the companies involved care about.

We really need to regulate online advertising. My personal opinion is that we should eradicate it and let the cards fall where they will, but that's unpopular and unrealistic for many valid reasons.

I agree with your sentiment but some of the quotes in the article from internal Google memos look pretty damning. One of interest says their "Jedi" advertising program, which was meant to subvert legitimate ad competition from other exchanges, 'generates suboptimal yields for publishers and serious risks of negative media coverage if exposed externally.'

I also would like to see some changes but this seems like a case of Google actively trying to be evil. They architected their systems to choose their exchange, even if another exchange had a higher bid, and then lied to ad publishers about the practice, along with fully acknowledging it in writing! How much more self-aware could you be? How could people, in good conscience, work for a place like that?

It wasn't just evil, it was a calculated power move. They understood the fact it was wrong, calculated the risks involved and even the damage it would cause if they got caught.

The only effective punishment for those is to calculate how much they gained from it, calculate all profits that resulted from those gains, subtract all that from them, and then apply some huge fines as well in order to leave them in an even worse position than they started. Basically reset the company to the position it was in before this move, and then make that position worse. Like rewinding a chess game but they also lose a rook or something as punishment for their audacity.

The people that facilitated this behavior and got wealthy from it, the C-suite people, should be out in prison for this as well, as well as be forced to pay a huge fine.

This should serve as an example for other companies not to behave in the same way.

Agreed. This is straightforward fraud: they promised to find the lowest possible prices, and instead deliberately overcharged people in order to line their own pockets. In a properly regulated industry, this would be a violation of their fiduciary duty, which is punished extremely severely.

You would be hanged in some countries.

After the company pays the fines, a shareholder lawsuit could (in theory) force the board to claw-back executive compensation.

Indeed. Anything less than this is a slap on the wirst that will change nothing.

> The only effective punishment for those is to calculate how much they gained from it, calculate all profits that resulted from those gains, subtract all that from them, and then apply some huge fines as well in order to leave them in an even worse position than they started.

From a practical (and economic/game-theoretic) perspective, you need to insert a risk adjustment (by which I mean, if their odds of being caught were 50%, you need to divide the fine by 0.5) and a net-present-value adjustment (if an additional dollar earned at the time of the violation is worth 80 cents at the future time of the judgment, divide the amount by 0.8) prior to the calculation of profits and the addition of punitive fines to be truly effective.

Why? Sounds like we should do the opposite.

1. True justice would have been 100% chance of them getting caught. Since it was not 100%, it means they took advantage of some inefficiency in the system in order to get away with it. They should be punished for this disrespect through bigger fines. The less risk there was to them, the bigger the fine.

2. They earned dollars years ago. Today's dollars are worth far less. Therefore the fine, calculated based on that year's profits, must be adjusted upwards to compensate. Just like their profits must be adjusted upwards for inflation in order to make sense of their value in terms of today's dollars.

You're in agreement. 1/0.5=2

Oh. You're right. I think I misread the post and replied too impulsively. I apologize.

You're right about the inflation adjustment (which is separate from a net-present-value adjustment). I guess I was assuming constant-dollars.

To be clear, net-present-value is the bird-in-the-hand principle. A dollar now is worth more to you than a future dollar, EVEN IF YOU ASSUME NO INFLATION.


I would not base it on profit. I'd say a fair fine is income multiplied by three. It should really hurt.

Oh yes, Google are definitely being evil in this situation, but the point I'm trying to make is that the battle-field they're all fighting over has no good guys. Everyone fighting on this field wants the same outcome.

I'm not trying to be universally damning, and I respect Apple's actions in relation to this, but it doesn't change the fact that this is a battle between powers that don't have our individual interests in mind. This is a battle of mind-share.

Absolutely. Advertising is the root of all the evils we face today in this technological society. I too believe it should be eradicated. If not by force of law, then by literally driving their return on investment to zero by blocking all their ads to all their users by default on every browser, every application, every operating system, every router, every ISP.

> Advertising is the root of all the evils we face today in this technological society

Overstated a little, don’t you think? What about opioid addiction? Sedentary lifestyle with poor diet? Cost of health care and education? Racism? Should I go on?

Frighteningly, you'll find that there have been advertising campaigns related to each and every one of those issues, which have swayed public opinion drastically one way or another.

> What about opioid addiction? Sedentary lifestyle with poor diet? Cost of health care and education? Racism?

Yes, those are real problems. How's that got anything to do with our digital lives though? That's what I meant by technological society. I could probably have expressed myself better.

What I mean is the internet used to be a lot better and advertising is responsible for making it worse. All of the abuses we suffer today on the internet, especially our lack of privacy, are caused by advertisers and their insatiable need for our attention.

How do you think folks heard about opioids? Word of mouth?

Before these tech monopolies came into power, radio and tv have always been free and have been a way for people especially the poor to get informed and entertained.

If we ban advertising altogether, we're gonna be in a worse situation with many people not getting access to news.

Ban awful advertising practices especially by big tech companies, not advertising itself

> radio and tv have always been free and have been a way for people especially the poor to get informed

Informed? You mean manipulated, right? Watching open television makes me physically sick because of the constant agenda pushing. I can't watch 5 minutes of news without some person imposing their moral judgements on me and telling me what's right and wrong. It's made even worse by all the advertising, the open networks get the bulk of it.

If banning advertisers kills these networks, we'd be doing humanity a favor. Facebook's election manipulation and clickbait news articles have got nothing on these folks.


Advertising is a universal scourge, in my book. I don't care what form it's in. It's a manipulative intrusion and a pollutant. I'd legitimately rather you mine cryptocurrency on my machine than mine advertising photons on my retina.

You can thank the Regan Administration for removing the FCC's Fairness Doctrine [0]. From 1949-1987 if you were broadcasting news you had to present both sides of controversial issues.

[0] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FCC_fairness_doctrine

The fairness doctrine in practice boxed out any opinions outside of the mainstream and allowed both major political parties to control public discourse.

It was also compelled speech by the government which plainly violated the first amendment.

Thank you. I hate this increasingly common attitude that free speech should be constrained because [political candidate or movement which I don't like] is in the ascendancy.

You can really see someone's ideals in what they do under pressure, and apparently people's liberal ideals of free speech etc aren't very strongly held.

Unrestrained freedom to intentionally lie to the public and use social media to amplify propaganda is clearly a public health threat.

The question is if there is any cure that doesn't destroy legitimate political speech.

(Illegitimate speech being the calculated, coordinated distribution of false information).

> Unrestrained freedom to intentionally lie to the public

You're presuming that TV and news media never lied to the public before the end of the fairness doctrine, and the giving equal time didn't give undue weight to some bullshit ideas.

The controlled messaging around the war in Vietnam is a great counter point here.

I'm alarmed by anyone who can genuinely talk of 'legitimate speech' and not see the issues here.

“legitimate speech” is not the opposite of “illegitimate speech”. There is a huge grey area in between. It is fairly easy to see egregious lying as illegitimate without trying define “legitimate”.

I'm alarmed that you don't see any danger of intentionally, factually false speech being spread to tens of millions of people a day. Or that you don't have any desire to at least brainstorm on a solution.

During the civil rights movement, politicians in the south accused civil rights leaders of lying and tried to used the state to block their speech. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee called the First Amendment their weapon against oppression. Now I agree that people shouldn't go on TV and say for example that the recent election was "stolen", but I don't think the state should be given the power to stop someone from doing that. Having the power to stop one kind of speech can easily give the state the power to stop any speech. We shouldn't expect every future government use that power wisely. Imagine your worst political enemy having the power to decide what "factually false speech" shouldn't be spread. I wouldn't want that. Do you?

No, but it's a false premise because I disagree that throttling the velocity of known malicious speech and its amplification is equivalent to banning speech.

I see your point but don't think it's an infinitely slippery slope.

You keep not understanding that the problem is using words like 'legitimate' and 'known'. You can't keep sneaking those in, in such a factive way.

In real life, people don't have labels floating above their heads saying 'Liar', and statements don't have labels saying 'Known' or 'Malicious'. Someone, or some group, or some process, needs to decide what is true and what false, who is benign and who malign, and so forth.

And now that I've guided you to this point, I hope I don't need to explain where things can go wrong from there.

>You can't keep sneaking those in, in such a factive way.

We'll have to agree to disagree for the time being. There are things known as facts, and things known as lies.

Again, I'm not saying we should jump to any particular solution to misinformation, but I refuse to watch it happen and say "I immediately know there is nothing we can do".

> There are things known as facts, and things known as lies.

Yes, I understand that. But if you want to give the state the power to ban speech (or 'throttle' speech, whatever that means) then you need to give someone the power to determine which speech falls into that category. Please... do you really not see this problem, after so many people have explained it?

I do see the problem. But you see it as a binary. Government has no control, or all control. Government does something, or no one does something. Like my above post states, I'm not willing to entirely jettison the idea that there are limited steps that either private organizations or the government could take, transparently.

Throttle, by the way, would be something like Facebook not quite banning a topic, but limiting how many times it can be shared per unit time, or by how many people, or how much a particular account can share things, and so on. Not a ban, but a limit on speech via its velocity.

Just to hammer it home: I get the danger. What if the former president, or what if the head of some far-left student group at Yale, got to determine what is legitimate speech or not? Yes, I get it.

But there is a lot of options on the slider between "let all broadcasts continue without challenge" and "have the central committee delete all non-approved govthink".

Who decides that though? You and I may agree today on a particularly egregious claim, but it won’t always be that clear and we won’t always agree.

The problem is that the slope isn’t slippery until someone in power decides to abuse it, then there’s no footing left at all.

There another often overlooked point here. When you cede the ground that there exists speech that should be sanctioned by the state, you are giving a powerful argument to people who stand against pluralism. The troglodytes who shot up the Charlie Hebdo office specifically accused the writers of hate speech. We shouldn’t give ground to people like that. Even abhorrent speech must be free from government sanction or else we allow for state violence to be used to suppress free expression. When we open that door, all manner of vile creatures might push there way through. Within the broad expanse of human beliefs everyone is a heretic open blasphemer to someone.

The argument at the time was that with a limited resource like airwave that the government regulates and licenses out the first amendment doesn’t apply. Harder to use this line of reasoning for modern communications.

I believe that argument was always a fig leaf over restricting speech.

>if you were broadcasting news you had to present both sides of controversial issues.

Down here in Texas, we have a law where teachers have to teach both sides of controversial subjects. So, of course, someone is teaching both sides of The Holocaust.

Because it is controversial. And that is the law.

Is the Holocaust controversial? IS IT?

I am reasonably certain that in the aftermath of Charlottesville we arrived, as a result of extensive public soul-searching, at the nuanced and bi-partisan conclusion that Nazis are Bad, so I am not sure where the controversy lies.

Optimistically, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with a law like this because when engaged with lies, kids should be able to figure this stuff out. It’s not like they’re incapable of critical thinking. They can look up if the claims are true and find that nothing backs them up.

But I get that most children won’t do this, so overall, yeah, it seems like a terrible law.

Ultimately, it comes down to what TX defines as “controversial.” Is this interpretation (teach Holocaust denial) legal or is it some rogue teacher who decided it means they get to teach whatever they want because all their opinions make their family angry at Thanksgiving dinner?

You’re asking a lot of children. Skilled people have been working on improving propaganda techniques for a very long time. It’s rarely just outright lies - there are more effective techniques. For example, it’s easy to find dozens of cherry picked examples and represent them as the thing that was common (instead of say something that happened only 0.001% of the time). Something like this is much harder to refute than an outright lie - you have to do a full blown study figuring out how common the thing really was, and before long you’re demanding everyone to do their own research and verifying everything (in an environment full of bad actors muddying the waters).

My understanding is that it’s a law designed to allow teaching of creationism, since, to their understanding, evolution is “just a theory”.

That makes sense. Guess they think Intelligent Design or whatever they call it now is due for another challenge since the SCOTUS leans more conservative.

What if they look up the lies and only find more misinformation and articles giving "both sides of the story".

Open television can contain a lot than just news. Where I live, it has sports, scripted television shows, movies and more.

The fairness doctrine is anti free speech and evil.

I never said anything about any fairness doctrine. I think we're better off without any open TV networks at all. I'd rather people remained ignorant than serve as pawns in electoral games. That's not even my opinion, it's how the prevailing political ideology of my country describes them. They're "masses" to be "maneuvered" into alignment with the proper ideology. The mass media are the means to do it.

Killing mass media is a favor to these people. They would remain ignorant but at least they would not suffer the indignity of being manipulated, herded like cattle.

Newspapers inform people and aren’t free. They are available in the library though.

Newspapers also misinform people. The content should be accountable. This accountability should be judged on provable factuality, provable profit, provable misinformation, provable conflicts of interest etc.

The point of regulation is to, ideally, force societal institutions to adhere to set of rules. The point of government should be to make sure these rules are unbiased, based in fact, and equally applied to all sectors of society.

It's a crazy dream. I don't know a single country in the world that gets this right, but certain individual countries get different elements of the equation right, so my hope is not yet in tatters.


> radio and tv have always been free

Yes. And they achieve this through advertising too.

I think that was their point (though I'm not altogether sure where they were going with it). Anyway, there's a case to be made that radio and television advertising are less malign by virtue of being less targeted. They can only run adverts which appeal to everyone in the region they cover, which is a much less powerful tool.

Until you consider groups like Sinclair Broadcast Group[1] who control enough region's media to start playing games.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_Broadcast_Group

I've read about that. It's astonishing. That's much more of a worry, admittedly, the way they target local news. It's still much less potent than Facebook-grade targeting, but it's a rung above national news, granted.

Media intended to manipulate. Neither truth nor falsehood, agnostic to both. Weaponized bullshit.

Sprayed willy-nilly over the population, driving us insane. Propagating down the generations, driving our grandchildren insane.

Contagious memetic cancer.

Perfectly legal?

Months ago I saw someone here compare advertising to mind hacking. It's a really interesting analogy. These people want to hack our minds in order to inject their little brands. Like the bots hammering away at ports of servers, they keep hammering away at our senses until something sticks.

Like an hour ago I was writing a post and reached the conlusion advertising is mind rape.

I've also often thought advertising are like military psychological operations except run by civilians.

I should probably start keeping track of these analogies...

It really is. They use stuff like political wedge issues to hook people in, not unlike like the payload delivery mechanism that installs the daemon which enrolls your computer in the botnet.

And then they use their botnet against the actually useful targets, which aren't the wedge issues like trans people in toilets, but rather the tax breaks, going to war, electing biddable politicians, etc. Fox's viewership is one of the most potent and malign botnets in the world. It's quite a relevant metaphor, really.

Those ideas are amazing. Advertising implants ideas into minds. People so convinced essentially join a human botnet, fighting for a cause, spreading the same ideas. Yes.

I wonder if we can draw even more parallels. What other conclusions we can reach?

Reminds me of “ghost hacking” as pioneered in Ghost in the Shell franchise. Entire personalities and belief systems embedded into a person. The rise in parasocial relationships verges close to fulfilling the ghost hacking premise of implanting a belief in an entire wife and kid that don’t exist, or at least not as such. That franchise was a warning, but it’s also an instruction manual for a high tech dystopia that no one even realizes isn’t a utopia.

GitS SAC 2045 has a scene with Togusa being exposed to augmented reality advertising while investigating the major's disappearance. Advertising fed directly to his brain through his optic nerves and it's even more annoying than internet popups.

There's a scene in Greg Egan's "Diaspora" where a couple of AIs wandering in the wild encounter an old soda can imprinted with Coca Cola's logo, marketing slogan, etc.

They freak out (having read about this ancient evil called "advertising" in their history books). Afraid that even looking at it will infect them with memetic plague.

They carefully look away from the soda can while burning it to ash with a laser.

this is already pretty thoroughly explored by accelerationists


> Sometimes, and often in a pejorative sense, it may refer to the theory that the end of capitalism should be brought about by its acceleration.

Huh. I certainly believe in this. I think capitalism will end itself by automating everything and depriving people of disposable income with which to consume. We'll end up either in a post scarcity society like Star Trek or a cyberpunk dystopia with corporations making artificially scarce goods for the sake of the status quo. The latter is looking more and more likely...

Had no idea people with similar ideas existed. It's nice to discover I'm not alone.

startrek is too far away to provide any meaningful perspective or insight on things that matter today. cyberpunk is already upon us, it predicted a lot but today it's just the world.

you won't get anything out of the introductory texts of accelerationism, and a lot of the more famous politics of people who take on the mantle of accelerationism are really just crude and uninteresting justifications for (often distasteful) pre-existing ideology. there are a lot of people who embrace that "should" you quoted with a bit of bloodthirst, they fail to approach acceleration as descriptive/analytical rather than an ideological -ism, and then disappointingly apply the -ism to whatever cruel bullshit they were already thinking.

what's interesting, to me at least, is the willingness to think about superstructure and culture as a techno/memetic hyper-ecosystem, really integrating psychology and sociology into political thought, and providing an analysis that works on a continuum through history.

i haven't seen anyone say or do anything useful with it yet, but it's there, and it's not anywhere else.

> We'll end up either in a post scarcity society like Star Trek or a cyberpunk dystopia with corporations making artificially scarce goods for the sake of the status quo. The latter is looking more and more likely...

The most likely outcome is a post-scarcity world for the owners of the companies and automation that make goods. We, and all of our descendants, would have starved to death long before that since we aren't needed anymore to generate goods or wealth.

It goes both ways too. Using the perfectly human sentiment of not separating families at borders to justify electing politicians that want bigger government, higher taxes, and more power.

I went on the hunt just before posting this to find out more about how many people click on ads and how beneficial they are (for any party, not just the advertiser) and I can honestly say I think it's all lies: the whole industry are lying to one another and, by extension, to the customers.

Now, this is pure anecdotal but every result I found on DDG was from a company that either advertises, consults about SEO/ads, is Google, or otherwise part of the ad scumbaggery somewhere in the chain.

The thing that got me was they all said ads are brilliant (I know, odd, isn't it?). They all had click through figures ranging from a few percent to 35%. Are you kidding me? A third of people click on ads?

I couldn't find anything that said ads are shit or dangerous or even anything vaguely negative.

Now, I don't see ads. Ever. I have UBlock Origin and privacy badger and other settings to prevent them from showing on my screen but the odd time I setup a PC and have to open a gaping browser, it's such an assault on the senses.

I've asked on here before but is there somewhere out there in the internet that I can see unbiased research on ads. Something! Anything at all?

Advertising is lying. How can you trust anything the sellers of products say? They will obviously attempt to emphasize the pros and minimize the cons. There's a massive conflict of interest in advertising that can never be resolved. I want real information from real people who actually use the products, not what the seller paid some ad company to tell me. I usually obtain this information by directly asking the humans in question, they usually don't come to me unsolicited like the ads do.

> the odd time I setup a PC and have to open a gaping browser, it's such an assault on the senses

Oh god I know exactly what you mean. I install uBlock Origin as soon as humanly possible but that short window of time before it's done is such a bad experience.

> Advertising is lying. How can you trust anything the sellers of products say?

I firmly believe this. However, I try to be more objective these days and even if I hate/disagree with something I still like to find some objective facts/data about things to see stuff from other perspectives.

Even if I find research that says everyone on earth likes ads except me, I won't change my personal stance on them.

Edit: forgot to add that by lying, I was referring more to the click rates and returns and whatnot, rather than the claims of the products that are advertised.

OK, I was actually in Google Ads (the first time) 2008-2010, and saw the results of zillions (technical term) of experiments, where pCTR (probability of a click-through) was one of the variables measured against the control.

You're right -- it's nothing like 30%, except for maybe some extremes, e.g. "mesothelioma" where the user really wanted that information.

A few percent.

>I've asked on here before but is there somewhere out there in the internet that I can see unbiased research on ads. Something! Anything at all?

Is this possible? If you are stating from the go that you do not trust the numbers so you are doing your own study, isn't that a bias already?

Not really. I mean a study that's not from a company that sells ads or is in the chain somewhere! Any studies (I use the term very broadly) that I've seen are all net positive!

I want something from, say, The German Institute of Being Really Honest, who are government-funded perhaps... a few studies from entities who don't have a dog in the fight is all I'm after.

If their conclusion is that people are happier with ads then so be it... I'm happy without them, that's for sure.

It’s not like you’re unbiased either.

Why can’t you believe some ads have a clickthrough of 35%? You never see ads so you don’t know how good they can be, right?

Also, you see ads all the time on HN. This whole site is a marketing/advertising campaign for a VC company.

Personally. I love to buy stuff and I love to click on ads for things I might want to buy.

> It’s not like you’re unbiased either. Correct, I'm not. I can't stand ads. And to clarify, I mean traditional ads like banner ads, billboards, TV ads etc.

Ads come with tracking now... that needs to die immediately!

And I'm not talking about sites like HN: I know who owns it but they're not actively forcing me to watch some claim that "This thing will stop you being an ugly bastard and make women throw themselves at you"...

In fact, UBlock Origin shows nothing on this site.

> In fact, UBlock Origin shows nothing on this site.

That’s the very best kind of advertising. The kind that has fooled you into thinking it’s not there.

Ok, if I squint really hard I can see where you're coming from but if I took your stance I would have to disconnect from the internet.

Every site has logs. They can all see where I've been, what I've looked at, how long I looked at it and so on. I get that part. I'm a developer. I build that stuff myself.

However, I need to draw the line somewhere and using UBlock Origin and never ever seeing an on-page advertisement AND minimising all tracking is the threat-model I'm targetting. And, I'd reckon that most people who care about privacy would stop about there too.

With HN, there are no distractions on the screen. Nothing flashing or moving or asking me to sign up or anything... that's what I am trying to prevent.

In any case, lets say I could stop everything and still let the text on a web page through on my browser... just the text, nothing else: we've seen in the past how even that is a signal that can be tracked.

We can't stop it completely but I feel that I'm doing my bit to make it less effective and hopefully, eventually, pointless.

In a way, what you’re OK with is more insidious because it’s tricked you into believing it’s real content. Now you’re even defending them, a far cry from the original ADS ARE BAD sentiment you started with.

Yeah. And some of us fetch HN via rest apis in json. Tracking? Ah, no. Nice hanging out with you guys 'here' :-)

The ads are the content, not the tracking.

> polluting your internet experience with injected, paid for, content

You're really understating the problem here. It's not injected content, or paid for content that's really a problem. It's that state of the art social engineering has been used to create platforms in which the ability to manipulate people and their attention, beliefs and behaviors is sold at scale.

While the business model undoubtedly has a part to play I think the bigger issue is the lack of consequences for devising such schemes. The article's right to point out the similarities to insider trading. The only obvious difference is you don't leave the building in handcuffs.

Why don't these companies just offer a paid version of their products? Giving people an opportunity to back out. E.g: Pay X per month to use Google and you get no ads or tracked. YouTube does something similar, but I guess they still track you.

I personally would still mostly use the free ad-supported version.

I'm paying for YouTube Premium and I wouldn't touch their free product anymore, if they sunsetted Premium. However, almost 35% of most videos I'm usually watching also contain sponsored ads and annoying self advertising for their channel (subscribe to the channel, click the bell icon, shady VPNs, online learning portals, etc)

How would regulation work here? I'm relying on Sponsorblock for now, but that doesn't work on Chromecast.

Right. And I don't think YouTube knows how to deal with that issue right now. They expected creators to be happy with just the money they earned from the ad revenue they passed through, but the creators found they could make more through sponsored content which is difficult problem for YouTube to tackle.

> Why don't these companies just offer a paid version of their products?

Youtube is a great example of that. I see post after post of people here bragging about using ad blockers on Youtube -- rather than pay. Nevermind that the creators on Youtube get screwed by this behavior. Most people on HN can afford to pay the monthly fee (easily!) But somehow they think ad blocking is more "moral".

It's ads or subscription fees or all these services go away. Pick one.

If you pay for it, YouTube will not stop collecting your interests, clicks, how long you spend hovering over each video, which comments you spend time reading, etc. They will continue to feed this data into their AI, making it smarter and building a more complete profile of you, which can then be used to manipulate your political views and change the world at large.

They'll just stop showing you ads, which we can accomplish for free via an adblocker. Many people are willing to pay a premium for actual privacy (see: Apple)

I pay for YouTube to get rid of the ads, although the ads I saw were actually really well targetted and I enjoyed most of them the first time around (!). The thing is the data that YouTube collects actually works for and against me - it is used for evil purposes, but it also works to make my experience on YouTube more enjoyable by recommending videos that I would like.

Ad blockers don't change that. They track you for recommendations and view counts and things like that either way.

I suppose you could watch Youtube in a new incognito window for every session. But I doubt that is what most ad-blockers-users are doing.

The problem is that subscribing to YT Premium requires a Google account (with valid personal data - fake details won't work for payment processing), where as "freeloading" with an ad-blocker allows you to stay more anonymous without even signing in (and clearing cookies every time).

Just curious: do you use Amazon? They track everything you've bought, everything you view, all comments you read, etc.

Does that bother you any more or less than Youtube?

I don't need to pay to close my eyes or plug my ears.

Many times they do. And then they put ads on it as well because why not make even more money? Also, paying customers are worth more to advertisers.

Haha true. And the amount of money made per user with ads/adtech is unbounded, so why bound it to X per month.

This greed? would probably lead them to ruins.

Exactly. It's pure greed, they will never stop. The only solutions are to make advertising illegal or technologically infeasible.

We see this happening with TVs, etc. Soon cars will have it.

Because solving that problem is like solving for global warming: at the end of the day (and conversation), the world uses a few gazillion tons of oil and other "bad" resources for Stuff™... which is depended on by a multi-level deep, exponentially large pile of even more Stuff™, and

- humanity is really, really, terribly bad at the kind of large-scale practical cohesion needed to actually go "okay we fix" and actually follow through, for as many dimensions as have developed over the past 100 years

- the only collective impetus that would scale to this sort of challenge would basically amount to a cult-following phenomena (see also: world history full of inexplicable mass deaths and rituals and whatnot that make no sense, and also generally suboptimal religious practices, as a result of cults).

IMO, humanity's ability to keep up with itself and chip/computer complexity kind of dovetail a bit: things were pretty hazy (ahem, okay, academic) in the 40s-50s, academic/industrial in the 60s-70s, reached a peak of industrial design/practicality around the 80s-90s, and basically "exploded in complexity" from the 90s on. Except things didn't really explode in complexity, they just exceeded our ability to "think small" and execute at the same time.

Looking at the Web, I remember reading an article recently that talked about how the Web standards (HTML5 (incl. video/image format support, network I/O, etc), JS (incl. "web stdlib"), CSS (incl. animation), SVG (incl. kitchen sink), etc etc (incl. etc)) are basically tens of thousands of pages long in total, and exceed the complexity of every other protocol, technical standard, file format, architecture specification, etc - in the world, possibly combined. The article made a point of comparison with the 3G cellular protocol being much simpler than the current Web.

And this is being paid for by... advertising.

Chrome is basically a technology that has the "implementation commitment", if you will (it's massive, it has the R&D pedal to the floor, it's constantly refactoring, it continuously pays out massive bug bounties, etc) of something too big to fail...

...all the while it's funded by, IMHO, what amounts to a really big tech bubble.

It's like, how will it crash? Something has never gotten this big before... and something has never gotten this big without anyone realizing, in particular. Chrome is just like, yeah, duh, it replaced the telephone ("my telephone exists to run Chrome"). It's a standard utility. Of course it isn't going anywhere.

Will it somehow become like a broken telephone pole held up by the wires it's supposed to be supporting (https://old.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/3umd5d/buddy_of_mine_..., https://igorpodgorny.livejournal.com/177105.html)? Will we all end up going back to proprietary clients a la AOL and CompuServe? Will the massive 100-to-0 in infosec investment suddenly mean hacks go through the roof 100x?

It probably won't be the end of the world, since the Web is basically just a re-API-ification of desktop OSes, and apps on mobile OSes have enough traction to be a viable escape.

But for now, the entire Web is funded by, basically, hot air. I do wonder if that's part of the reason behind so many JavaScript frameworks - that awareness of existential impermanence, and much subtler sense of unsustainability.

IMHO, buying/using reusable shopping bags, or only using bamboo or metal straws, or buying a zero-emissions car, have much the same amount of impact as deliberately watching ads.

There is absolutely no action you can take, including paying for services, that will match the trillion-dollar advertising industry.

Nothing at all, not even if you were to become a billionaire. That is the problem of advertising.


Consider the above a sort of "what if" / "is this right? how close is this?" / thought experiment, presented as though it were fact. (I tend to pose ideas to myself in this style, which I think is probably fairly common, but given the "people writing as though they're right on the internet" thing it seems useful to add something like this.)

Thanks for the mind-dump ;-) I appreciate answers that think on their feet!

I think the only thing I can ask you to consider is that, despite how bad fossil fuel use is, and despite how bad we've fucked up the environment using it, no-one can claim it wasn't actually useful (wasteful, short-sighted, wrong, polluting, possibly apocalyptic, whatever, but still physically useful).

Advertising isn't useful. It could be considered a perfectly renewable resource! It'll be viable as long as humans are around! Yay!, but it's not useful. It's actually actively harmful. The primary, secondary and residual effects of advertising could be summed and tallied and they would be shown to be a net negative. Those who are on the positive side of the calculation will have you look at their gains and swoon, but the negatives far outweigh the positives.

It's a fundamentally different question to dealing with global warming because global warming has externalities that we can't immediately control. Advertising has externalities that, given the chance, we could nullify within a generation, if not faster.

Advertising is essentially just lazy attempted fraud, one person trying to convince another to give them money in exchange for something they may or may not need or want. I understand it in a more absolutist free speech country like the US. I don't at all understand why a society would ban, say, hate speech while still allowing uninformed, non-specific advertising. Seems hypocritical.

People have free speech. If someone wants to recommend some product to a friend, they are absolutely free to do so. That's how things should work.

Companies are not people. Their speech should be fully regulated.

At least not without the attendant responsibilities. If we're going to treat companies like people, go all the way. When they commit crimes, send them to prison, i.e., make them fully stop any economic activity for years at a time.

> "fraud: one person trying to convince another to give them money in exchange for something they may or may not need or want"

That is one bizarre definition for the word "fraud".

I am not so sure about the fraud claim. I once saw an add on FB and bought the product. I am still happy to this day and do not feel the victim to fraud. But I do agree it is odd society has allowed it to go on as it has for so long. Especially in the US with their constitutional rights and freedoms. People so worried the government will sneak the smallest peek but totally don’t bat and eye when some private company mines every detail of your life. Weird.

I can't count the number of times I've seen advertising for a product that I then purchased and was very happy with - but I would not have ever found it without the advertising.

I think you misunderstand advertising if you think it’s fraud.

You're right, it's more like corporate-sponsored brainwashing.

> I'll play devil's advocate for a second and say that "not all advertising is bad"

I've tried advocating for Satan in that way as well ... but could honestly find no compelling points with which to argue the case. It always boiled down to enabling one party to get money from another party irrespective of the one's party need for or ability to afford said product.

The easiest to way end advertising is to spend more and stop running a frail economy.

When aggregate demand is weak, people spend lots of money to try to redirect that demand towards them, when demand is strong people are too busy fulfilling orders to waste money on demand.

Crank up the fiscal policy and reduce working hours, and banning ads will be a lot more politically feasible than it is today.

*waste money on dredging up more orders to fill — i.e. more demand — via ads.

I can imagine great benefits to eradicating advertising but I fear most of the internet can't exist without the ad revenue which might lead to an overall worse state of affairs for most people.

I run multiple online properties without advertising. I would (and in some cases do) support the sites I use regularly by paying them directly.

I pay for YouTube to not advertise at me, and I'm a Patreon. I happily pay AWS and GCE costs. I pay for streaming services and other random hosted services.

I'd love to have an advertising free option for search engines (Yes, I use DDG), Reddit, Twitter etc.

I'd also like it if any news services I subscribed to removed advertising on any articles I accessed, but this still seems like it hasn't settled into their mindset, so I'm still hesitant on this particular front.

I'd also happily subsidise other people's access to these sites. I'm a regular donator to Wikipedia, and I've funded archive.org . I want people to have these resources. I Just don't want them to be advertised at when they access these resources.

It existed just fine in the 90s without nearly as much advertising. And honestly people need to get used to paying for services, instead of being the product.

> And honestly people need to get used to paying for services, instead of being the product.

Why? I see no reason for that, it would just lock out most people in the world from these products.

It existed in the 90s but many of the resources we enjoy today didn't and couldn't exist then.

As much as i hate ad business, you've got to admit the 90s internet barely has anything to do with today's. It was fun and wild, but very amateurish. You can't sustain the scale of investments made on today's internet without a robust income stream.

We have peer-to-peer digital cash now. It's no longer a choice of advertising vs. monthly or yearly subscriptions through a credit card payment processor.

this advertising-as-root-problem perspective seems to have some traction here, but you’re not going up far enough in the causal chain of abstraction if you stop at advertising. that’s a tried-and-true recipe for unintended consequences and ineffective solutions. ultimately, it’s money that’s at the root of the problem, but that’s too uncomfortable of a truth for most people to accept, so we try to pull up short with attempts like this. and money in turn is overloaded to encapsulate power, influence, esteem, and wealth.

if we really want to inject fairness and competition into the ad business, we must accept that the quest for money, and all that it represents, is the driving force behind these kinds of behaviors, and that the only effective means of curtailing them is to ultimately rein in the drive for money (not simplistically to limit advertising).

both money and ads are useful tools in context, which also means in moderation. money is an overly simplistic metric poorly correlated to what we all want, which is human worth: to be loved, respected, esteemed, and included. having been gamed for so long, it now represents, and correlates with, our vices more than worth. we need to get beyond money as this simplistic on-size-fits-all metric for human worth.

> We really need to regulate online advertising

To me it's a mistake to think "we" here. You or me will never make any online advertising regulations.

Making regulations is a political process, and the outcome will be determined by those with political power.

So the question is if you want them to regulate online advertising?

Not all advertising is bad or rather, Advertising is not bad, period. The way google and facebook do it is bad, and of dubious effectiveness. Most of the small specialized niche communities need to stop relying on adsense etc. They should add self-serve advertising instead, and provide adequate exposure to those who pay for it. Advertising is communication; what is terrible is when it becomes spam, and google's moneymaker relies on spamming a lot because its premise is that spamming sells. There are better ways than that.

Advertising can be good if it becomes entirely honest and selfless. This never happens. The actual social analogue of this is known as "personal recommendation".

As soon as you're paid to inform me about a product, and you subjectively promote that product's virtues over their competitor's virtues, you've become at best untrustworthy, and at worst manipulative. You may be correct in your statements, but, because you gain financially from those statements, you can't be 100% trusted.

This is just the way of the world. I'm sorry you may feel otherwise.

How are you going to support innovation and free product for those who can't afford across the world without online advertising?

The banner bidding in the article was intended to level the playing field for advertisers and give sites the best price for ad space. There were always going to be ads, however, Google and Facebook sought to undermine that progress which may have allowed publishers to continue to produce advertising funded media. Now we see publishers are forced behind paywalls because online advertising was unable to keep the lights on. Meanwhile Google and Facebook were able to get richer.

If you eradicate online advertising, wave goodbye to HN.

Turns out we only want to ban the ads we don’t like.

If HN can't survive without advertising, I can survive without HN.

EDIT: HN is run by a venture capital company. The hosting of HN almost certainly costs a tiny fraction of the profits of said company. Their advertising is minimal, and I'm sure the return on said advertising is minimal compared to the benefit of just running the site. @dang can correct me if this is wrong.

Either way, HN is not, as far as I can see, an advertising funded site. It has financial benefit to YC in other ways.

HN has sponsored posts. You can identify them because HN’s interface won’t let you comment or vote on them. The buttons and links literally are not present.

Yes, and those should in fact be banned. (Although complaining those specifically is like complaining about mercury tilt switches in a pinball machine in a cafe down the street from a factory that dumps thousands of tons per day of assorted toxic waste into the nearby river.)

You can hide them like any other post, so I don’t see that they are as impactful to user experience as most other ads, which require third party browser extensions and/or DNS level blocking. On balance, I think HN does ads “right” and the only way I think they could be improved is with explicit labeling indicating that they are sponsored, unlike user-submitted posts.

Being entirely anti-ad is an acceptable position to hold, and I don’t really disagree, though it feels a bit of a cheap shot to single out HN like this.

> I don't see that they are as impactful to user experience as most other ads

Yep. Hence the comparison to mercury tilt switches.

> it feels a bit of a cheap shot to single out HN like this


If someone is entirely anti-ad, they have to be anti-ad-on-HN.

Exactly. Sponsored posts are ads and need to go, but this is not particularly significant on either side. HN in general is no more a ad than donating money to charity for PR reasons is a ad, and it requires a considerable confusion of ideas to think otherwise. (Or a confusion of what "ad" means. FWIW, BGP address advertisments are not ads either.)

They're not identified as such? I thought it was required to identify such ads.

I thought so too, at least in EU? I remember social media influencers getting in hot water for not labeling sponsored content as such.

HN is literally advertising for a VC firm. That’s why it exists and what it is. If you ban ads from the internet, you’re banning HN.

You can be fooled into believing HN is not advertising because you like it, but that doesn’t change what this site truly is.

No one at YC thinks of HN that way. I certainly don't. If we did, we'd run HN very differently.

You're also wrong about why HN exists. pg created it for a bunch of reasons. Some had nothing at all to do with YC (e.g. wanting interesting things to read, once Reddit stopped being that for him; and wanting to make a web app in Arc) and others did. All of those reasons are still alive today, so your interpretation is much too reductionist.

It's true there are job ads for YC startups, and Launch HN threads for YC startups get placed on the front page (this is all in https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html). I'd like to hear what you think we should do instead. Surely you don't think HN should give nothing back to YC in exchange for funding it?

I’m not saying don’t do it. I think you’re doing great. HN is clearly a hugely successful content marketing project regardless of how the origin story is ret-conned.

You’ve got a passionate community of rich/technically skilled people who claim to hate ads falling over themselves to explain why this site is somehow different.

Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s more the cognitive dissonance of the commenters here who proudly announce, “I never see any ads” and “ads have no effect on me” that I find funny.

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