The Morality of Mobile Content Blocking

Last week Apple released iOS 9, and among their usual yearly updates and new features one in particular stood out: content blocking.

Anyone who's spent any time on the web in 2015 knows how annoying and creepy advertising and tracking have become. I've posted about it several times, but until now there's not been much you could do about it on mobile.

While on the surface it feels like a no-brainer for users to install a content blocker, the ramifications of using one are deeper than it would seem. I'm all for blocking full page ads that cover the entire window and tracking cookies that are borderline spyware, but as of right now iOS content blocking is an all or nothing affair. The sites that have non-obtrusive ads that are relevant to their readers will be effected the same as the bottom feeders who don't care at all.

I want to support those who are actively trying to do the right thing. Sites that I love, respect and read daily all make their income from serving advertisements, and I want them to continue to earn a living. I hate that they'll be punished for the negligence of sites that don't give a shit. I wish I knew the answer. A more robust content blocking API would work, but how many normal non-geek users would take the time to tweak the settings? How many of those same users realize they're taking money out of the pockets of legitimate publishers? Hell, how many would even care?

The only way to protect your online experience and not hurt the good guys would be to level the playing field. Convince everyone that ads and trackers that don't harm the internet as a whole are the way to go. That's probably an uphill, un-winnable battle though. Until then it will be a cat and mouse game where the scummiest of the bunch try to find new ways to lower their standards even further all while damaging not only their readers but websites that respect the user experience.