I had an idea that I wanted to see if others think it should be feasible to implement using the Librem 5 at some point. With all of the political ads for the coming voting season, I just decided that I don’t want to see any part of it in my online experiences. With one candidate alone poised to spend over $1Billion of his own money on political advertising alone, I especially don’t want to see any of those political ads. I don’t even want to see political ads from those who I plan to vote for, none.
As we browse the web and use services such as twitter and facebook, it would be nice if the Librem 5 could block all ads of every kind from every possible source. In other words, we want to completely evict all advertisers from the internet completely. They may exist there. But if we have the right technology, we won’t see them and they won’t see anything real about us. Then someone could write an app that allows selective opting-in, for ads that anyone really does want to see. Is it possible to block all ads everywhere, even on Google-controlled and double-click controlled websites? I am not talking about reducing the number of ads, but giving the phone owner the absolute ability to block each and every ad, even within twitter and facebook, as though those ads never existed. Perhaps twitter and google and facebook could be fooled in to thinking they know who you are (when they don’t) and fooled in to believing that you really saw their ads when you really didn’t see any ads. I just want an online world that is completely free of advertising. Can one phone alone make this possible for those who own a Librem 5.
Any device that you will now fully control is a good start towards this goal but I am not sure that any device can guarantee to achieve the goal. Conventional ad blockers presumably rely on a range of technologies, none of which is foolproof.
Web pages don’t set out to delineate clearly parts of a page that are advertising and parts of a page that are useful content. Indeed, with a widespread model of advertising-funded web pages, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to do this or even to make it easy. On the other hand, heuristics and ad hoc logic that are designed to detect advertising from its characteristics will never be foolproof and will have some of the problems that anti-spam does (false positives, false negatives).
My suggestion would be to take a long holiday from the internet between now until the date in November. That will avoid all internet advertising and avoid much unpleasantness.
You have probably left this too late - maybe in time for 2024. You would also have to receive your L5 before November for the question even to be relevant.
In principle you could whitelist the internet, accepting only those domains that are not advertising funded. However that would certainly mean giving social media a wide berth until November.
In giving the above response, I am noting that you are quite absolute in wanting to see zero ads. There are no doubt many existing solutions that are imperfect but which will make your online experience more pleasant by reducing the number of ads.
This may be counterproductive. If they think that people are seeing their ads, they will keep spending money to place ads. If noone is seeing their ads, they will stop wasting their money. So better to block their ads and let them know that you did this, in my opinion of course. The trade-off though is that if you are honest about blocking ads, some advertising-funded web sites will disappear due to lack of funding.
Also, some web sites are designed not to work if you block ads - so there is something of an arms race between ad blockers and web sites detecting that you have blocked ads.
There is some benefit to tricking a site into believing its ads have been served, because then they won’t try to find new ways to serve as. But to reiterate, the hard part is knowing what to block. If you blacklist, you’ll be forever adding to that list. If you whitelist, you’ll also be forever adding to that list. Then there are sites like youtube that embed ads into streaming content, and the software has no mechanism to know “this part of the stream is unwanted.” I like your idea, but I can’t see how it’d be possible, much less feasible.
I think that the goal should be to not just escape the ads yourself, but to destroy the eco-system that drives the ads. Yes, facebook and twitter are opt-in services. But what would happen to facebook and twitter if anyone could easily disable their ads and there was nothing they could do to stop it from happening? The social media technology is established now. Why should we have to continue paying some unfair price to use it? Do we have to pay some kind of fee now to use the wheel? Somebody invented the wheel and we all use it now for free. No one gets royalties or makes you watch ads for the privilege of using a wheel. Social media should be the same way. For services like news feeds, I think it is reasonable to charge a small fee or to have some ads since someone has to do the research and publish their findings. But other than making minor software upgrades to increase their own revenues, most social media sources like facebook and Twitter and google do not provide a value that is fair for the influence they exert in our society. You know it’s really bad when you say ‘enough is enough’ and start looking for alternatives. The best way is not to legislate them. It’s to use technology to render their ads ineffective except per some truce. Some truce might say ‘okay, if I opt-in what’s in it for me?’. Such a truce needs to be backed-up by something that says to advertisers and media outlets ‘…you have to play nice and respect me. Because if you don’t, my family and friends and I will render you non-existent in our world while we continue using Twitter-like and Facebook-like services without you’. Then we give them only one-hundred words to express the most important parts of their user agreement. The user agreements can only be updated at most, once per year and can never exceed one-hundred words. If they can’t express it in one-hundred words, they’re hiding something. If they deviate from these rules, we render them non-existent in our online experience. If their terms become unreasonable, we erase them from our visible world while we continue enjoying online social media experiences without them.
They do of course have to operate server and network infrastructure. That costs money.
They do also operate a vast censorship infrastructure. It is questionable whether they ought to do that voluntarily but if they chose not to, I believe that many governments would force them to. That also costs money.
Surely the appropriate response is someone sets up a NFP social media provider and charges the required minimum amount to customers? If noone wants to pay anything then that’s life.
This sounds like round table discussion. It goes beyond whether it is possible to block ads, how accurate or feasible it will be, etc.
To be honest, I am far more concerned about the privacy considerations that go on behind the scenes than the mere fact of being presented with ads.
Later Edit: There is no advertising at all, although they do actively encourage a $5 USD/month subscription to help support their ad-free model. The subscription is an enhancement/addition to the free basic services. Also, everyone post you make reaches 100% of your audience, no algorithms messing with your newsfeed and organic reach.