A new ad-blocking tool out today ensures that everyone can consume their favorite content while remaining on solid moral footing. The Ethical Ad Blocker Chrome extension, developed by internet artist Darius Kazemi, will block any webpage that contains ads, replacing it with a crude text page telling users to check out a list of auto-generating websites and non-profit organizations that give stuff away for free. There's nothing like a little blunt commentary hitting you over the head to make heads or tails of the contentious climate around ad-blocking.
"The conundrum at hand: users don't want to see ads, but content providers can't give away content for free," writes Kazemi on the extension description. "The solution is simple: if a website has ads, the user simply should not be able to see it. This way, the user doesn't experience ads, but they also don't leech free content. Everybody wins!"
"The user doesn't experience ads, but they also don't leech free content."
Kazemi, who co-runs a creative tech cooperative called Feel Train in Portland, Oregon, has made some amazing pieces of art on the internet at Tiny Subversions. Take for instance his Sorting Bot, a Twitter bot that, if you choose to follow it, will eventually sort you into one of the four houses of Hogwarts and tweet a rhyming couplet at you. Kazemi also made Leaving Everywhere, a tool that auto-generates essays using US Census Bureau data in the style of now-formulaic Joan Didion-inspired rants used to justify somebody's bad feelings about where they used to live.
In my test run with the Ethical Ad Blocker, you can't really use the internet that well. It's unclear if the extension actually detects advertising and blocks the page, or if it's simply white-listed the websites Kazemi knows are tied to non-profits like the Mozilla Foundation, with everything else blocked wholesale. I was unable to give it a more thorough test, as it was blocking the domain The Verge uses to publish articles.
Correction at 10:26 p.m. PT, Thursday, September 23: A previous version of this article misidentified the name of Darius Kazemi's tech cooperative; it is Feel Train, not Free Train. We regret the error.