Reddit moderators consider ban on links to sites that block adblockers

Moderators of Reddit’s popular Technology subreddit may give websites that block adblockers a reason to reconsider.

In a post published on Sunday, a moderator named creq said the /r/technology moderators are considering banning links to websites that block adblockers or keep content behind a paywall, and asked the community to offer feedback.

The post specifically mentioned Wired, which in February moved to block adblocker users unless they disabled their adblockers or paid for a subscription to an “ad-free” version of the site; and Forbes, which has a similar ban in place, offering users who disable their adblockers an “ad-light” version of the site.

Pointing to an incident earlier this year where a security researcher reported being served malicious advertising on after disabling his adblocker, creq said the moderators “see this as a security risk”:

reddit moderator post on banning adblocker blocking websites

It has come to our attention that many websites such as Forbes and Wired are now requiring users to disable ad blockers to view content. Because Forbes requires users to do this and has then served malware to them we see this as a security risk to you our community. There are also sites such as Wall Street Journal that have implemented pay-walls which we were are also considering banning.

We would like all of your thoughts on whether or not we should allow domains such as Forbes here on /r/technology while they continue to resort to such practices.

Thank you for the input.

So far, creq’s post has attracted over 3400 comments – the top 200 comments appear to show near-consensus support for the ban on links to domains that prohibit ad blockers, although there is some dissent about banning links to sites with paywalls.

“I think a warning should suffice for those [paywall] sites,” commented user engineer-everything.

Another commenter, tehmlem, said banning links to websites that block adblockers might “encourage responsible ad sourcing,” by “cutting into the revenue” of those sites.

Over Reddit’s private messaging, creq told me that the primary goal of the ban is “to keep the readers of /r/technology more safe” by not directing users to sites that “essentially request that they disable security features on their browsers.”

A secondary goal is to discourage websites from requiring users to disable adblockers, creq said.

The ban on links to those sites could be enforced through Reddit’s AutoModerator, which moderators can configure to block specific domains.

Creq wouldn’t say whether, or when, the moderators would implement a ban, or which sites users would be blocked from submitting links.

Initially, the moderators would use “previous knowledge” and reports from users to create a list of banned domains, creq told me.

Users submitting links from banned websites would get a message explaining why, and encouraging them to submit a similar link from a different source, creq said.

At some point, the r/technology moderators might share their rules with other subreddits, creq said:

Down the road we may end up setting up some sort of repository that we will make available so that other subs could use and contribute to it. For now though that’s future stuff.

Some in the advertising industry have complained that adblockers amount to “censorship,” and critics of the growing adblocker industry say that adblockers who make revenue by charging advertisers to participate in “acceptable ads” programs are a “protection racket.”

Yet adblockers are increasingly popular with users who are fed up with some of the ad industry’s more intrusive and annoying tactics (such as pop-unders, pop-overs and autoplaying videos).

Adblocker users are also concerned about invasive tracking by online ads, and, of course, the risk of malvertising.

According to a study by ad-tech company PageFair, there were around 200 million adblocker users in 2015.

With so many web users changing their browsing habits, a growing number of content providers experimenting with new revenue models, and adblocker companies springing up over night, the only participant in the online advertising struggle that doesn’t seem to be changing tactics is the advertising industry itself.