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Is Apple Against Peace?

Some people are saying ad-blocking is the same as piracy
Is Apple Against Peace?

Marco Arment released a brand new iOS app called Peace. Within two days, it shot to the top of the paid app charts. Arment, however, was taken aback by the apps immediate success, and quickly pulled it from the app store amid questions of the app’s morality.

Marco Arment, tech wizard and developer of Tumblr, Instapaper and Overcast, released a brand new iOS app called Peace back on September 16. Within two days, it shot to the top of the paid app charts. Arment, however, was taken aback (strangely) by the apps immediate success, and quickly pulled it from the app store amid questions of the app’s morality.

Peace is an ad blocker. Which means users that download the app on their mobile device can view webpages without advertisements.

Obviously, we’ve all been using this kind of software for our non-mobile devices for years. But Apple only just granted support for ad blockers on iOS recently, and Peace was one of the first new apps to take advantage of the opportunity.

So what’s the ethical concern? Ad blockers help users avoid annoying ads, but they also undercut content providers, by reducing advertising revenue.

Peace is an ad blocker.

When pulling the app from the app store, Arment said that the ethics of ad-blocking is not only complicated, but he drew a parallel between ad-blocking and piracy. Although he claims the analogy isn’t ideal (explicitly saying it is not the same), he nevertheless invokes it. However, he does not explicitly reject ad-blocking and in fact, argues at one point that they should exist and he will continue to use them. Still, he insists that the ethics of ad-blocking is not clear, and for that reason, he took down his app so as to not be at the forefront of the movement.

When pulling the app from the app store, Arment said that the ethics of ad-blocking is not only complicated, but he drew a parallel between ad-blocking and piracy.

Still the comparison between ad-blocking and piracy has now driven considerable debate. Proponents of this comparison mostly all agree that ad-blocking is much less morally questionable. Obviously, stealing intellectual property from another person is a violation of rights. But just as the owner of property has set conditions upon the availability of their content (you may access my music for a fee of x), so too, does content providers that set up advertisements.

For example, a content provider will post a news story on the internet (take our very own Versus, for example), and also put up web ads next to the story (like mine). The argument proponents are making is this: you may access this story, so long as you also at least view the ads that afford me the opportunity to give you this story. Therefore, ad-blocking web users are accessing content without accessing ads, which some argue is a violation of the provider’s rights.

That’s because advertisements, in addition to being large, annoying, and pop-up-y, are also tracking your movements on the internet. So, as your internet behavior is tracked, it comes at a privacy cost to you.

However, there is a lot missing from this argument. Firstly, those that set property rights upon their intellectual property have legally binding conditions upon which these conditions must met for users to access their content. Anything outside of this conditions is illegal according to law. Ad-blocking, on the other hand, has no actual legal condition that it violates when accessing a web page.

But even if someone passed a law that made it illegal, it is still very different, for moral reasons. Or at least it seems so.

That’s because advertisements, in addition to being large, annoying, and pop-up-y, are also tracking your movements on the internet. So, as your internet behavior is tracked, it comes at a privacy cost to you.

No one can find any justifiable reason for pop-up ads that block the entire screen for a certain amount of minutes. Being obnoxious is never justifiable.

For those concerned with privacy, this is a moral argument for ad-blockers.

Worse, this argument forgets “malvertising”, every internet-users worst nightmare.

Furthermore, it’s important to consider that while many pirate to enjoy content for free, others pirate because their is no legal means to obtain the content. In our ever globalizing world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to access American netflix without a US VPN, or impossible to legitimately stream South Korean movies in Germany.

It also seems like people it has to do with being justified. I am not condoning piracy in the least, and yet in the paragraph above I have outlined an ARGUABLY justifiable reason for piracy, whereas no one can find any justifiable reason for pop-up ads that hide their x, or have it move when you go to click it. Or worse, ads that block the entire screen for a certain amount of minutes. Being obnoxious is never justifiable.

Movie studios, musicians, editors, producers, on the other hand, are all completely justified in their charging for their intellectual property.

Movie studios, musicians, editors, producers, on the other hand, are all completely justified in their charging for their intellectual property.

The idea that content providers and web users enter into a non-verbal agreement regarding “must view ads” is completely absurd. The provider never explicitly gives a condition upon the content which their share. Therefore, web users never violate any condition. There is no implicit agreement that occurs. The internet is the internet, and when something goes live, it is on there forever; the person posting it is implicitly agreeing for the world to read it.

Lastly, most of us don’t actually ever click on the advertisements, which mean both the advertiser and the advertised never even benefit from your web page viewing.

The idea that content providers and web users enter into a non-verbal agreement regarding “must view ads” is completely absurd.

 

So few users actually click the advertisements and buy through external links, and obviously, those are not the people that would use an ad-blocker. Those that do buy from ads, believe they benefit from discounts, sales, etc, and probably just enjoy online shopping. However, each person user has their own amount of personal knowledge, certainly with respect to themselves. They know that they will never buy, and it is their right to choose that. The lack of advertisers information is no one’s fault but their own (and does not mean they should trample down the piracy rights of others to discover what they might actually buy online).

So why not the ad-blocker? Why not fight for Peace?

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