The Ethical Ad Blocker Magically Solves All Ethical Ad-Blocking Problems

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Last week, my colleague Adrienne and I examined a digital moral quandary: whether or not to install an ad-blocker. Ad blockers make browsing the web faster, more secure, and less of a drain on a phone’s battery; they also put a significant dent in web publishers’s business. After the newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 9, permitted users to install ad blockers, they shot to the top of the company’s App Store.

But within days, the most popular of these was pulled by its developer, Marco Arment. Blocking all ads, he wrote, was “too blunt,” and it would hurt too many people. He called for a “more nuanced, complex approach.”

He called, in other words, for an ethical ad blocker. Now, less than five days later, I think we may have found it.

It was created by the developer Darius Kazemi, and it’s named, fittingly, the Ethical Ad Blocker. In his introduction, Kazemi sketches the contours of the ad-blocking debate: ads “are terrible,” he writes, but they are “also the only really viable way to make money if your business model isn't ‘sell a discrete item to people in exchange for cash.’”

Yet there is hope. Kazemi continues:

Fortunately I’ve developed a simple solution. The Ethical Ad Blocker is a Chrome extension that, when it detects advertising on a website, blocks the entire website. This way, the user doesn't experience ads, but they also don't leech free content.

This is some real disruptive, out-of-the-box thinking—the kind of thinking that online journalism needs right now. You can read more about the Ethical Ad Blocker on Kazemi’s website. And, for reference, here’s what The Atlantic (which, alas, does have ads) looks like with the E.A.B. turned on: