Blocking ad blocker blockers

In December, Forbes began requiring readers with ad-blocking extensions to disable them in order to view pages. Visitors were greeted with a message: “Thanks for coming to Forbes. Please turn off your ad blocker in order to continue. To thank you for doing so, we’re happy to present you with an ad-light experience.”

In some cases, they were also greeted with malware. Security researcher Brian Baskin was the first to report “malvertising” on Forbes: ads opening a new tab pretending to be a Java update page. The fake Java update is pushy and contains malware.

Forbes claims to be unable to replicate the issue and has not published an apology.

On the other hand, plenty of sites handle advertising right. After reading a recent blog post by Stack Overflow’s advertising operations manager, I whitelisted his site. The programming Q&A site avoids malware by hosting and publishing ads itself. All advertisements are relevant to programmers and aren’t tailored for users with tracking data. They are static, lightweight images; the site still loads quickly on mobile. I’m fine with looking at ads here because they don’t negatively impact the user experience and are safe.

In response to Eyeo’s Acceptable Ads Manifesto, uBlock Origin’s developers wrote their own:

“The user decides what web content is acceptable or not in their browser.”

I’ve decided it’s not worth my time to install an extension to block ad blocker blockers. When a site like Forbes requires me to disable my blocker, I decide to go somewhere else. There are metaphorically billions of news sites, most of which don’t hold their content hostage. I’d rather stick to the Stack Overflows of the world than the Forbeses.