AdBlock is showing advocacy ads in honor of the World Day Against Cyber Censorship.
AdBlock is pretty good about removing any and all annoying display ads from your browsing experience—much to the annoyance of useful websites that rely on advertising to make money to, you know, exist.
However, if you’re a big fan of AdBlock, you’ve probably noticed that your browsing experience has been a bit different today.
Instead of booting all the ads out of your Web browsing, AdBlock is actually filling up the spaces with ads of its own. Normally, such a practice would be a great way to hack off every single user of an advertising-blocking tool, but Adblock is actually showing ads as part of a partnership with Amnesty International to increase awareness for censorship.
The timing is fitting, too, given that today, March 12, is officially the World Day Against Cyber Censorship.
According to Amnesty International’s webpage about the Adblock partnership, the various ads displayed in users’ browsers will feature content from people who have, at one time or another, been allegedly targeted by their governments for their speech.
This includes statements from Edward Snowden, the band Pussy Riot, Ai Weiwei, and various messages from North Koreans—given the government’s fairly heavy hand for censorship.
“Some states are engaged in Orwellian levels of surveillance, particularly targeting the lives and work of the people who defend our human rights – lawyers, journalists and peaceful activists.
This continuing development of new methods of repression in reaction to increased connectivity is a major threat to our freedom of expression,” said Amnesty International secretary general Salil Shetty, in a statement.
Running a tool like AdBlock has become more than just a means for preserving the simplicity (and sanctity) of one’s Web browsing experience. Now, as AdBlock CEO Gabriel Cubbage describes, people use AdBlock for a number of different reasons: lessening the impact on their monthly data plans by keeping unwanted, bandwidth-hungry advertising out of their mobile browsing; speeding up their Web browsing; and keeping companies from tracking them (and then marketing to them) as they navigate from site to site.
And it’s not just AdBlock—or software like it—that’s making people think more about online privacy.
Cubbage points to the recent iPhone encryption fight between the FBI and Apple as a prime example of a big, real-world issue that has made a lot more people think about how privacy plays into their tech-centric lives.
“We welcome this development, even though most of our users barely notice our presence on a day-to-day basis (and that’s by design!). We’re showing you Amnesty banners, just for today, because we believe users should be part of the conversation about online privacy.
Tomorrow, those spaces will be vacant again.
But take a moment to consider that in an increasingly information-driven world, when your right to digital privacy is threatened, so is your right to free expression,” Cubbage writes.
“When the means of personal expression is also the attack vector for prosecution, censorship becomes the de facto reality.
And if you’re in the business of filtering digital content, then like it or not, you’re also in the free speech business.
At AdBlock, we’re trying to learn how to come to terms with that, and we’d love it if you’d weigh in, too.”