Free Internet? Please, and I want Adblock to go with it.

I read this article today saying that Adblocking could “remove” £12bn in advertising by 2020. I don’t see you can remove something that is not there to begin with but let’s go with it.

The following picture show you all the related articles where Adblock is basically the new evil and its users should be rebaptised Damian or at least accept their mothers to be called Rosemary.

ScreenHunter_002

As you can see Adblock is everywhere. Including on both my current laptops, all my former and future ones.

Before I go into why I have Adblock, my issue is: 100 000 000 devices have it. For the sake of the argument, let’s say that one device = one person, are these people living miserable lives because we have no adverts? Have we stopped buying cars, clothes, food and other goods because of that lack of something that is talked about as if it was essential to our survival? Have we completely isolated ourselves from the rest of the world by not force-feeding ourselves with ads on a regular basis? Have we all become hermits refusing to give in to materialism and over-consumption? Are we unaware of what’s new and are therefore doomed to eternally live in the past? Are we now in a parallel world? Do we even exist?

The answer to these questions is obviously “No.”

100 million people. That’s a country-worth of people beyond borders, culture, language, age, gender who can live a normal life without ads so what are they for in the first place?

Ads have been presented as a way to keep us inform of novelty. They are is aimed at the people to encourage them to make the right choice because choice is endless today and how are we ever going to be able to make the right one if an advert doesn’t show us the light?

These words are not mine but the ones of a friend who works in advertising. When he told me that, I couldn’t help but remembering the Eddy’s rant from Ab Fab at another PR person:

“You! You attached to that crap-ad man over there. The king of bastardisation that just takes everything that is ever real and and genuine honest and original to attach it to a toilet cleaner! I don’t more choice, I just want nicer things!”

That’s excatly the point we make in one of the articles you see above: we don’t like the ads and it turns out we don’t need them, we can make choices of our own through experiencing and searching. We needn’t be force-fed.

Nothing has changed in terms of advertisement between today and yesteryear. They still are as patronising, infantilising, irrelevant, stupid, deceiving as they always were so we don’t believe what they say. We heard it all before. They have been watched on TV, listened to on the radio, read in newspapers and magazines. My generation grew up with them in the background of everything like a mosquito buzzing in your ear on a hot summer night when you try to sleep. We have learnt to ignore them, change channel, flick through, leave the room. We have also grown wary of their ridiculous claims and terrible acting that makes want to hammer the TV and the radio to dust, the same way we end screaming in the night and fumigating the whole room to oblivion.

Take any ad to sell us cleaning products. Jesus Christ! I cannot believe these desert of intelligence are actually the outcomes of countless meetings and millions of pounds. All for talking toilets?!

“Please someone! Just make shut the fuck up!”

Now we can! That’s the difference. It’s brilliant and it’s Adblock! I can actually enjoy watching, listening, reading without someone telling  me my life is over if I don’t get the latest Tampax. The one that allows me to climb on my boyfriend’s shoulders because I don’t want to cross the river with my shoes…I am man, why do I care?!

It’s not about skipping anymore, it’s about removing them altogether, enjoying the freedom away from their overbearingness and contempt.

When they don’t completely overshot and encourage my best friend, a Polish Catholic, to go on a dating website for single Muslim women just because she is friend with an Algerian guy on Facebook, they reduce all of us to nothing but wallets that need to be emptied. We have to buy! What are we waiting for?! 30% off on all vitamin C complements at Tesco’s, it’s madness!…Madness? Really?! Do I need that much vitamin C?  Can’t I get strawberries?

Well that’s perfect, the next ad shows me there is a Buy one get one free offer on all strawberry boxes at Sainsbury’s! That’s madness!…Are they any good or half rotten as usual?

And that’s when ads don’t actually cost money per say. Having a I-phone 4S, I don’t have the adblock app so I cannot read the Guardian when outside because most of my data roaming goes to download endless banners I never see on my laptops. That’s my own money down the drain for ads I don’t care for.

There is also the fancy graphics. Once I was cut out of the Guardian website for three weeks because the main advert was some kind of gif/video that couldn’t load. So I kept getting the “Sorry, the page did not load properly, we try again”…for almost a month! I played Wordfeud and sod trying to keep informed.

So yes, we have Adblock to be free of all that and to be able to enjoy something that is proudly and loudly advertised as free. And the truth comes out. The ads have nothing to do with us and everything to do with companies: the ones selling their products and the ones being paid to allow them to sell their products on their “free” platform. The ads are the key to Free Internet.

If social media are free, YouTube is free, newspapers are free on the Internet, it’s because the companies are buying advertising space. Just like they do on TV. Like we say in French: Tout se paie.

Hence the vilification of Adblock: it’s a threat to Free Internet. Without ads, everything will have to be actually paid for or will be doomed to disappearance. I and all the other Adblock-lovers are killing free internet, it’s our fault if websites close for lack of revenue.

In the UK,  the culture secretary said “the fast-growing use of software that blocked advertising presented an existential threat to the newspaper and music industries”. We are selfish, irresponsible bastards, it turns out.

Maybe I was naive but for me Free Internet meant free as uncensored, unedited by anyone expect creators accordingly to their own will and desire. For me, when someone puts something on the Internet and claim it is free, it is free, end of. There are no strings attached.

But I understand now. The word “free” has two meaning: freedom and not-to-be-paid-for. And the fact is: they don’t actually come together. Youtube is free to use for us but relying heavily on private cooperation to find revenues, they also have imperatives that come with this imperative.

Nothing has changed, it’s traditional media all over again but within the new media. Except for one glitch in the system: Adblock. So in the face of dissent, companies are realising that the Internet is more flexible, at the day of the end people have the power and won’t give in. So it turns out not to be the goldmine they expect to dig dry and they have second thoughts. And everyone is panicking.

That brings my final existential question about Internet: how can you pretend to be the essence of Free Internet and Internet Neutrality when the availability of your content, its independence and transparency are depending on the whims of private companies?

If your independence and transparency are threatened by the unwillingness of your audience to be force-fed ads made by and allocated for private companies, what you do doesn’t sound “free” and “neutral” to me, rather dependent and heavily controlled.

Private companies have an agenda. There is nothing such as selflessness when it comes to them – whatever they do. They have money to make, an image to build and maintain, customers to reach and I know, because I owe many blogs, that ad space also means a line of editing. I was offered countless times and always refuse. The temptation is great but I know that means sacrifice and bias.

I also learned about that through some of my favourite YouTubers who talk openly about the process of sponsored videos for instance. The fact is that every single sponsored video has to be reviewed by the company prior to being posted to make sure there is nothing that would could potentially be damaging to them – directly or indirectly.

Others said they have been contacted by companies willing to do business just to back down when they found out the channel was run by a gay couple or a hijab-wearing girl or a feminist activist. Nothing is free and rarely innocent when companies are involved. They put their money when the mouths are speaking what they want to hear.

What is killing the Free Internet and its Neutrality is not adblocking but its utter reliance on the money of private companies. What’s killing the Free Internet is that it hasn’t been able to truly find a viable alternative to actually be genuinely free. There is a whole part of the Internet that has truly failed in providing a new model and bowed to ones who run everything in the real world so they also have the reins in the virtual world.

We, however, have made a decision: we want to be free of ads and be careful, Le Monde, other news outlets and social media that are trying to force them on us, look at what happened to TV and you’ll find you are not irreplaceable. Time to go back to the drawing board but there is hope: we are ready to pay for the lack of ads, see Netflix.

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