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This article was published on March 11, 2016

    Irony alert: AdBlock will show its 50 million users ads protesting online censorship

    Irony alert: AdBlock will show its 50 million users ads protesting online censorship
    Owen Williams
    Story by

    Owen Williams

    Former TNW employee

    Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their word Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their words friendlier. In his spare time he codes, writes newsletters and cycles around the city.

    This is slightly ironic. AdBlock plans to show advertising to its 50 million users tomorrow for 24 hours protesting online censorship in support of an Amnesty International campaign.

    On March 12, AdBlock users will see messages from Edward Snowden, Pussy Riot and Ai Weiwei protesting cyber censorship. Each advertisement will appear in the form of banner ads and send viewers to longer content from each person.

    The campaign, which is part of World Day against Cyber Censorship, is trying to highlight that governments are increasingly seeking to control online communications through mass surveillance.

    Amnesty International points out that in the last year alone Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland and Switzerland have passed new intelligence bills that do exactly that.

    Each advertisement contains a strong message from a group or individual that’s been personally affected by surveillance, urging viewers into action. It’s a good cause, and only AdBlock users will see the messages.

    Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 12.55.59 PM
    A selection of the banners that will be shown

    It’s obviously a good cause that the extension is trying to get behind, though somewhat amusing that it’s delivering that message using a method that it works to banish from the Web.

    Despite the fact that AdBlock censors and blocks the revenue streams of publishers, it’s evidently more than happy to allow advertising that it alone deems important enough.

    AdBlock’s CEO, Gabriel Cubbage, said that “we’re showing you Amnesty International banners, just for today, because we believe users should be part of the conversation about online privacy. Tomorrow, those spaces will be vacant again.”

    “Take a moment to consider that in an increasingly information-driven world, when your right to digital privacy is threatened, so is your right to free expression,” Cubbage continued.

    It’ll be interesting to see how users react to the advertising and if the campaign helps make people more aware of online censorship – or just annoys them off by making them see more ads.