back to article Ad blocking. All fun and games – until it gets political: Union websites banned by uBlock Origin

The maintainer of uBlock Origin – arguably the most well-respected content blocking browser extension – has removed a set of filtering rules because they took a political stance. It's a development that underscores the vulnerability of trust-based community projects. A GitHub user raised the issue on Wednesday in a bug report …

  1. JohnFen Silver badge

    Filter lists suck

    Filter lists are a terrible solution to this problem, and this is one example of why (the problem goes the other way, too, of sites that should be blocked not being in the list). That's why I prefer to just block all scripting (by default) instead. That covers everybody.

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Filter lists suck

      Filtering by provider is more effective than you think. Providers have a certain reputation for quality that they try to target and that's easy to translate into a filtering threshold.

      What happened to uBlock sounds like improper oversight. Blocking scripting is hardly a solution. As a software developer, I'm never again touching server-generated dynamic UI components. Nope nope nope nope. Web page pulls JSON off the server and populates the dynamic UI 100% in the browser.

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Filter lists suck

        As a software developer, I'm never again touching server-generated dynamic UI components. Nope nope nope nope. Web page pulls JSON off the server and populates the dynamic UI 100% in the browser.

        So where do I send the bill to you for using my CPU cycles, when I visit one of your web-pages, to generate your dynamic UI?

        The issue I have with most javascript (besides the crap privacy issues) is that it is using my CPU cycles to do something that the website owner should be using their cycles to do.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Filter lists suck

          "So where do I send the bill to you for using my CPU cycles, when I visit one of your web-pages, to generate your dynamic UI?"

          To yourself, as you were the person who chose to visit the site.

          Don't like it using your computer? Then don't visit.

        2. tfb Silver badge

          Re: Filter lists suck

          If you have things run on your machine rather than remotely you get something which can interact with you with a tiny latency rather than however long the round-trip to the far end is, and you also get something which (at least potentially) doesn't vomit your information to some remote system you don't own or probably trust.

          Both of those sound like a win to me. The flip side of course is you end up running code you may not trust.

          1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

            Re: Filter lists suck

            As I prefer NOT to run code from untrusted sites on my computer. I will accept the tradeoff that some sites are unusable.

            With many millions of sites on the internet, any information that I want to get can normally be found on sites that still work without Javascript.

            NoScript and AdBlock Plus (or equivalents) are a necessity for sane use of the Internet these days.

            (As IE and Edge do not have good equivalents I do not use these browsers (and I have used the program control feature of the NIS firewall to deny them access to the internet).)

          2. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Filter lists suck

            "If you have things run on your machine rather than remotely you get something which can interact with you with a tiny latency"

            True, but relative to other factors (such as security), that is very unimportant to me.

            "you also get something which (at least potentially) doesn't vomit your information to some remote system you don't own or probably trust."

            Potentially is the key word here. In reality, client-side scripting or not, if a site wants that information (and most seem to), they're going to use every trick in the book to get it. Client-side scripting makes that effort so very much easier.

            "The flip side of course is you end up running code you may not trust."

            I don't, as I don't allow script to run.

            Neither of your points sound like meaningful wins to me.

      2. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Filter lists suck

        So your sites will never be used by me.

        I use NoScript which blocks all Javascript from sites not on my whitelist.

        If for some reason I have to use Javascript on a site that I do not trust then I fire up a VM with Linux running from a virtual CD (no hard drve). This way no matter how malicious the Javascript, it cannot damage my system. (Also all cookies and other tracking items are automatically deleted when the VM is shut down.)

      3. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Filter lists suck

        "Providers have a certain reputation for quality that they try to target and that's easy to translate into a filtering threshold."

        I suppose a big part of this is what your concern about advertising is. Mine isn't the advertising itself, it's the tracking that comes with it, and my goal is to prevent tracking. Providers (as near as I can tell) don't consider tracking to be a bad thing, and won't block based solely on that. So the only effective method, for my goal, is to block all scripting.

        "Blocking scripting is hardly a solution."

        It's been a fantastic solution for me for years. If a site doesn't work properly without scripting, then 99.9% of the time, I just don't use that site. If the site is, for some reason, essential, then I can selectively allow certain scripts from the site and block all the others.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Filter lists suck

      Agreed. I'm (grudgingly) using uBlock Origin while I wait in hope for RequestPolicy Continued to be updated to work with Firefox Quantum.

      NoScript + RequestPolicy were the perfect combination: nothing is allowed unless I allow it, and I can allow content from certain fairly untrustworthy domains (without which, regrettably, the site won't function) on some sites, but not on others, rather than a too-simple entirely allow or entirely deny.

  2. DeKrow

    Allow versus Deny

    So, how far away from the tipping point where 'allow' lists will overtake 'deny' lists in their maintainability?

    For my individual purposes an 'allow' list would be perfect and contain very few domains. I think the 'state of decay' of the Internet means it's time to impose this upon the rest of the household. One member, however, will NOT give up their Facebook. Already, there are two very difficult conversations in the pipeline.

    1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Allow versus Deny

      One member, however, will NOT give up their Facebook.

      Sounds like time to provide a non-persistent VM setup with a VPN connection and route all traffic through a proxy (maybe rotate the providers - there are a lot of free VPN and web proxies) in order to defeat tracking. Responsiveness of the site may be a little... off.

  3. Herby

    Similar to Godwin's law.

    Before something devolves to WW2 antagonists (I'm trying hard here), it first gets political in some respect.

    I suspect that a mention of a current US President will also be in the chain as well, but that is not international in scope.

    Be careful for what you ask for, you just might get it. As always, life goes on.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't give Theresa May ideas

    otherwise those sites critical of her will suddenly and silently disappear and never be met with again.

    Talk about creating Hostile Environments.

  5. Spazturtle

    Title of the article is incorrect, they were blocked by EasyList not uBlock. All ad blockers that include the option to use EasyList were affected.

  6. Velv Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Who watches The Watchers?

    Pretty much sums it up. If all you’re fed is “fake news” how do you determine what is not fake?

  7. MiguelC Silver badge

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

    "Last month, an individual participating in the EasyList community, apparently supporter of polarizing website InfoWars.com [my highlight], asked that the list not be used as a political weapon"

    Why do you posit that? I'm absolutely not a fan of the site, but totally agree with their request to remove political bias from that list.

    If you want to filter by political affiliation, do a specific filter for that (but then why would anyone use it - voluntarily at least? if you were one to want to use you wouldn't go to the sites listed in the first place)

  8. EastFinchleyite

    Choices

    "But anytime people make choices about what they see, those excluded may object. "

    This is the key issue. It is not "people" who are making the choice but the person editing the filter list. It seems that editing privileges are much wider than I thought. I use Adblock Latitude on the Palemoon browser. That comes with EasyList as the basic filter pack. I have added another list to focus on stopping Coin mining and have my own exceptions list. I have not bothered to work through the EasyList filters and the only choice I made was to take the whole list or not. Reading that someone has edited the filter list to exclude Union websites is worrying and not what I signed up for and definitely not my choice.

    To regain trust, the editing of filter lists needs to be managed much more tightly.

    1. Spazturtle

      Re: Choices

      Many of the regional lists (such as this one) are not managed by the main team and don't have the same level of oversight.

      If you look on the website for EasyList you can see which ones are managed by them.

  9. To Mars in Man Bras!
    Trollface

    I'd Like a Filter...

    ...That blocked any website which used the words:

    AWESOME --as a universal adjective to describe anything remotely pleasant

    SUPER --as a universal adverb for adding emphasis to any adjective

    and

    REACH(ED) OUT --as a universal replacement verb for 'contact', 'email', 'speak to', 'phone', etc.

    I realise that as a result of this, I might have to browse the internet without being able to access 99% of American and wannabe American websites, but I'm sure I could cope!

  10. dave 81

    functionalclam.com is still blocked

    and just to be sure, added it to my pi hole list.

    1. Chilly8

      Re: functionalclam.com is still blocked

      Blocking functionalclam for personal use is not illegal. In order for it to be a DMCA 1201 violation, it has to be for some of commercial or financial gain, It is illegal for filtering providers to block it, becuase they are doing it for financial gain, but you, as a user, are not subject to that.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mission Creep

    All filters suffer from "mission creep". Filters that were originally designed to block children from seeing porn have grown to where some now have 160 categories of content, to where they block too much.

    When I had my online radio station. I also operated a VPN as well, that allowed people to bypass office filters to listen.

    In short, ad filters, just like porn filters, will start go to too far

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