अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

August 14, 2016

Advert Abuse – 1

The Ad Blocker Alert is running amok, especially on the Indian newspaper websites. It all seems to have started on the same day. Perhaps they are all using the same software for creating their websites and some changes were made to that software.

I had ad blocker installed on most browsers I use. Suddenly one day, boom! no more (Indian) news reading if you don’t disable your ad blocker.

So far, so bad. Ad blockers have the option to disable it on specific websites. There being no other option (take it or leave it), I did that for several Indian newspaper websites. The Ad Blocker Alert still appeared, on all browsers. Then on some websites, it disappeared, although on some others it still said the same thing.

So it went on for several weeks. My browsers screens were dominated by ads, which seemed to be of two main varieties in recent days: bad semi-nude ‘paintings’ and a mind boggling number of ads for making women’s skin fair. As fair as a white woman. Or at least as fair as a Jewish woman. The ideal face for an Indian upper caste woman with marriage or her mind. Or, more likely, her family’s mind. With before and after pictures. The word racism is not in their vocabulary. The Indian newspapers (which these days go on about the same kind of racism in India and how bad it is) wanted me to see these ads. There were others which were offensive and/or irritating, as most ads are, advertising being an inherently evil art.

advert-abuse-1

Consent is not needed. No doesn’t mean no, whatever they might say in their reports and opinions pieces, and, yes, even essays. They publish essays too. They seem to have their own definitions about what the word essay means, like some on the Radical Left, who insist on calling their pamphlets essays. I don’t know when the word pamphlet lost its revolutionary value. Perhaps they are catching up with the bourgeoisie values. The word pamphlet don’t sound very statussy, I guess.

Then it got worse. Even with the ad blocker being disabled for all the Indian newspapers I read (for whatever purposes), the same Ad Blocker Alert appeared again. After some disorientation, I tried once more. I disabled the ad blocker everywhere. Now the content became visible, although in many cases the ads didn’t show up properly and instead of the ad content, there was some JavaScript. Naughty Ad Blockers! They were still doing something. As one newspaper report said yesterday, we can expect the duel to go on for some time. May be a long time.

Weeks passed again, with the same bad nude painting and fair skinning ads. Then yesterday, the Ad Blocker Alert was unhappy again. It started giving the same message: Please disable the ad blocker on this website (this time a bit more polite: The almost threatening Ad Blocker Alert title – in bold letters – on the page was replaced). But I had already disabled it on all websites.

Still having no other options, I went ahead and simply uninstalled the ad blocker completely. May be their ad blocker code was not smart enough and it just detected the presence of an ad blocker and blocked me in return.

The Ad Blocker Alert didn’t appear impressed. Back to the same message. Please disable the ad blocker on this website. But I had already completely uninstalled the ad blocker!

Now there is a disclosure: I sometimes use the Tor browser, even for visiting newspaper websites. In fact, mainly for visiting newspaper websites. And I know that many websites block traffic from Tor nodes. Some block it completely and some make you fill silly recaptchas. Free crowdsourcing for machine learning as the added benefit for the recaptcha providers.

So, on a hunch, I went to the vanilla Firefox. I uninstalled the ad blocker, installed it again (so that I had the latest version) and tried again. But this time I enabled it everywhere. First, it worked without the ad blocker being disabled anywhere. But soon the same alert appeared again. Now I disabled the ad blocker on that particular website. Surprise! It worked, although with the bad nude painting and the fair skinning ads (or some variety thereof) were still there.

A little bit happy (that I won’t have to now disable the ad blocker everywhere), I went back to Tor. Did the same excercise again. No luck. Disable on the particular website. Doesn’t work. Disable everywhere. Doesn’t work. Uninstall it completely. Still doesn’t work.

So I figured they are simply putting up the Ad Block Alert for any traffic to that newspaper from Tor (or may be from a foreign IP). The bright side is: no recaptchas to prove that you are not a robot (your are simply blocked). The recaptchas are getting more and more complicated these days and if you use Tor a lot, they will ensure that quite a bit of your time goes into proving that you are not a robot. Again and again. With different kinds of puzzles: some even difficult for humans.

For now, it seems only one Indian newspaper website is affected by this. It is one of the most centre-left, liberal, progressive ones. They are probably the trend setters.

Waiting for the others to catch up. No more Tor, it seems, from now on if you want to read Indian newspapers.

That’s how things stand for now.

 

Update: Suddenly, as I am nearing the posting of this post, the bad nude paintings and the fair skinning ads have become hard to find. For how long, I wonder? Instead there is this:

advert-abuse-2

Update-2: The semi-nude paintings are back:

advert-abuse-3

By the way, doesn’t this one look like a recaptcha? Click on the all the (bad) semi-nude paintings to prove that you are not a robot. I wonder what they are selling.

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