Turn Off Adblock, Get Served Malware

I've written before about the horror that is adtech. Advertisers send us megabytes of Javascript for 500 words of content so that they can track us and build profiles of our habits and preferences. When users finally tired of this and started using ad blockers, the advertisers reacted with outrage and indignation. It's immoral, it's stealing they said. Some even said it's illegal. The irony was thick on the ground.

Some advertisers went further. They added scripts to detect when ad blockers were in use and refused to serve content when they were. One such company is Forbes. When readers with ad blockers tried to read their 30 under 30 list, they were asked to turn it off and the content was withheld until they did. Any unfortunate reader who did disable the ad blocker was immediately served malware. Remember, this is not some pr0n site in the seedier corners of the Internet; it's Forbes.

The Engadget piece linked above says that “[The ad networks are] practically the most popular malware delivery systems on Earth, and they're making the websites they do business with into the same poisonous monster.” The content providers who use these systems have lost the moral high ground. It's easy to have sympathy for their position that they depend on advertising and without it they can't provide content but it's too great a stretch to ask users to have their privacy violated and it's certainly not reasonable to ask readers to deal with the malware that these websites serve them.

It's up to the content providers to hold the ad networks' feet to the fire and insist that they clean up their act. If that doesn't happen, it's not hard to imagine a lot of companies going out of business. The final irony is that the annoying ads are not cost effective.

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