Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Ethics of Being an On-line Freerider

Farhad Manjoo has a wonderful article over at Slate entitled "Blocked Ads, Clean Conscience" in which he questions the moral status of ad blocking software. The ads on various websites are unwanted and disliked, but they are part of what allows the content on the page to exist. Things cost money and this applies to the delivery of online content. But with ad blocking software, we can get the spoonful of sugar without the medicine.

But, of course, that is a terrible metaphor. Medicine makes you healthy, marketing does not. Marketing is not merely drawing attention to products and serves, but actively trying to alter your views and perceptions about them to influence you to purchase them. In our house, it is a standard practice to mute all commercials -- even ones we would otherwise find cute or funny. We do not want our minds influenced by people who have nothing but maximizing corporate profits in mind and care not one whit what is in the best interest of me or my family.

So, is there something wrong with being an on-line freeloader? Are you not paying your fair share by blocking the ads? Is it reasonable to expect you to open your eyes and mind to influences you may not want in order to have your mind influenced by sources you seek out?