UK culture secretary John Whittingdale gave a speech at the Oxford Media Convention where he compared adblocking to piracy and vowed "to set up a round table involving major publishers, social media groups and adblocking companies in the coming weeks to do something about the problem."
Whittingdale lumped in Adblock Plus's sleazy business-model (which promises users that ads will be blocked, then quietly charges publishers to break that promise) with adblocking itself, which many users opt into for perfectly legitimate reasons: saving mobile battery life, blocking drive-by malware, improving the reading experience, and preventing privacy invasions in cross-site tracking.
Notably absent from his speech was any analysis of the ways in which social media platforms have siphoned off the lion's share of ad revenue into walled gardens where publishers are shaken down in a much more sleazy fashion than anything Adblock Plus ever dreamed of. It's always easier to attack symptoms, rather than diseases.
The end-game for this is more war on general purpose computing, as yet another excuse is found to attempt to prevent you from running code that you want to run on devices that you own. Like all the other battles in this war — DRM, crypto backdoors, etc — it will do nothing but make your computer more vulnerable (by creating modes that you are not supposed to be able to peer into, modify or terminate) and do nothing about the underlying problem.
"Ten years ago, the music and film industries faced a threat to their very existence from online copyright infringement by illegal file-sharing or pirate sites," he added.
He said that in the current climate, adblocking potentially posed a "similar threat".
Stopping short of announcing an outright ban on adblocking, he said he "shared the concern" of the newspaper industry about the impact of the technology and would "consider what role there is for government" after hearing all sides of the argument.
"My natural political instinct is that self-regulation and co-operation is the key to resolving these challenges, and I know the digital sector prides itself on doing just that. But government stands ready to help in any way we can."
Adblocking is a 'modern-day protection racket', says culture secretary
[Jane Martinson/The Guardian]
(Image: Department for Culture Media & Sport)