Is Ad Blocking Ethical?
Nowadays, a significant portion of population of all countries spend a lot of time surfing the Internet. Consequently, advertisers have put significant resources into the digital channels to show commercials to the customers (O'Kelley, 2015). What is more, various programming components, trackers, big data and personalization allow companies to find the best target audience as well as increase the efficiency of advertisements. However, some people unwilling to watch commercials resort to using ad blockers, which are various tools to block ads such as banners, videos and others. While helping to avoid the excessive exposure to commercials, the use of ad blockers negatively affects the producers of content offering their pieces of information for free in exchange for the persons exposure to ads. Blocking ads is unethical practice from the utilitarian point of view because it negatively affects the producers of content rather than the companies willing to promote their products.
Primarily, when resorting to blocking ads, a person violates the policy of the most of websites providing users with free content, which is not ethical. In the general case, they operate on the basis of granting people access to articles, pieces of news, video clips or series for free, while covering the expenses of production or purchase of those materials due to selling companies the places to locate ads. However, when the user decides to block ads, he or she violates the policy, making the website more difficult to cover the expenses and grant visitors access to the materials.
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At the same time, the producers of the content and the owners of the platforms are the main victims of blocking ads (Ingram, 2015). In the most cases, the owners of the websites are working on the creation of good and interesting content to attract people and show them the greater quantity of ads. At the same time, the companies and advertising agencies acting on behalf of them usually pay websites on the basis of the number of viewed ads. Therefore, when somebody blocks ads, he or she negatively affects the profitability of the website and makes its owners or the authors of the content suffer losses.
What is more, the situation with ad blocking and free content resembles the problem of the common pool resources, therefore, requires from people obeying the rules to maximize the value for all the participants. In actual fact, people watching ads are those who obey the rules and are ready to anticipate the existing policies to get interesting content of the good quality without the necessity to purchase subscription plans. However, those who use ad blockers do negatively affect the whole system of creation and spread of content. On the one hand, websites having fewer resources will be able to purchase the content of the low quality that will negative effect the level of engagement and satisfaction of the audience. On the other hand, they can start using the subscription model, so people interested in the content will have to pay more, while those who do not have the sufficient resources would be deprived of the opportunity to see the content. At the same time, the Internet will lose one of its distinguishing features in comparison to the printed media, being the opportunity to enjoy the content in exchange of viewing some advertisements instead of paying money.
However, some people state that ad blocking is a natural process that could help the companies to change their advertising policies being harmful for people and non-efficient. On the one hand, today the companies like Google are collecting a lot of personalized data to provide people with the targeted ads. What is more, the companies are using instruments such as various trackers, banners and videos that greatly increase the time of loading the pages, making web surfing more difficult (Manjoo, 2015). For sure, the claims are rather justified but the practice of ad blocking cannot facilitate their resolution. Primarily, ad blocking usually cannot protect a person from sharing his or her personal data with Google and other similar services but only precludes the systems from showing ads. Therefore, ad blocking cannot increase the level of privacy of the audience, while can make the issue less visible to the individuals. At the same time, different trackers used to track the behavior of users on websites can increase the time of opening pages, while most of people from the developed countries enjoy rather quick internet connection to see the difference between opening pages with or without additional trackers and plugins. What is more, trackers are helpful instruments not only to show ads to people but to improve the user experience on websites. In this case, the companies developing ad blocking tools should have better helped websites to optimize trackers rather than make them impossible to use to maximize the benefits to the clients.
Some people state that ad blocking tools are helpful for people unwilling to share personal information or desiring to be exposed to no ads but they pay no attention to the real motives of the developers of ad blockers. However, the companies producing ad blocking applications usually earn serious sums of money when releasing their products (Zara, 2016). Therefore, they see the problem the users face but put efforts not to resolve the issue but to earn the money. In this case, the motives of the companies are to distribute profits of ads from the owners of the content to themselves.
Some people state that blocking ads can help the companies to improve their advertising techniques in the future to show less annoying and more effective advertisements. However, the process of development of the new digital advertising instruments is taking place regardless of the fact that ad blockers exist. For example, various trackers help to determine the behavior of the customers, their attitude towards opening ads and searching information online. In this case, the decision to block ads can negatively contribute to the development of the new tools, as the companies will have fewer resources to direct to the sphere. For example, today advertisers still use banners, videos and other annoying instruments, while the negative reaction of the audience or its low response rate can be more effective drive for advertisers to develop the new tools rather than a simple attempt of people to block all possible kinds of ads they may see. What is more, the owners of the content do not often create ads but use the ads developed by the companies. In this case, they cannot affect their quality, while appear to be the major outsiders of the process of ad blocking. Therefore, ad blocking cannot be ethical conduct, as it does not help ad creators to improve their commercials.
Some individuals oppose advertisements because they significantly affect the purchasing habits of people and make the powerful companies occupy the more favorable positions in comparison to their small rivals. One the one hand, all ads are aimed at motivating people to purchase certain goods or services, while digital tools can really help them to be more effective than some outdoor channels. However, one may state than consumerism of individuals is not generated only due to the digital instruments but is made on the basis of the whole range of advertising techniques and instruments people are exposed to. Therefore, blocking digital ads to be less subject to the spread of consumer habits is not moral, as it has no utility and is not effective.
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Most people do not distinguish between ad blocking and stealing something, while the actual difference is rather slight. For example, when a person is offered free content via the Internet, it is presupposed to be free due to the existence of ads. At the same time, the attempts to block ads represent the desire of people to receive something without paying for it. On the one hand, for people who do not realize the principles of the spread of free content in the Internet, it may be rather normal practice. However, when one realizes that the actual price of information is watching ads but refuses to do so, he or she acts in unethical way. For sure, it can be compared to shoplifting when an individual decides to steal the products due to the fact that a member of security team cannot prevent the case.
People resorting to ad blocking are acting in unethical way as they attempt to receive the content having the hidden price for free. One the one hand, the main outsiders of the process of ad blocking are the producers of content and the platform for its spread, as they spend resources to generate the content but receive no compensation from people consuming it. At the same time, ad blocking cannot be condemned for facilitating the creation of more user friendly ads because the sphere is developing regardless of the fact that ad blocking exists. Finally, their spread makes the producers of add blocking tools enjoy the profits, which should have been obtained by the producers of the content.