New Freebox update censors ads by default for 5.5M users

New Freebox update censors ads by default for 5.5M users

Adblock logoIn a recent update to its land-line Internet box FreeBox, Free has activated by default an option in its settings to block ads on any device connected to the internet via the Box. Originally reported by FreeNews (and picked up by Numerama), it seems that people are generally in the dark about why such a decision would be made. With an estimated 5.3 Million subscribers to Freebox as of January 1st 2013, Free, one of France’s largest ISP, could be costing websites relying on advertising for revenue millions of euros, and it raised the question “Can Free do this?”

Censorship of Advertisement: Yay or Nay?

Because the service doesn’t offer a whitelist (contrary to Adblock, a service I’ve used for years), this means that it is an all or nothing choice, activated by default to block everything. And since it is not only internet, but TV and phone lines running through the FreeBox, it’s possible that, if left unchecked, Free could beginning blocking TV ads, or phone calls from known spam hotlines.

While this seems like a potentially beneficial service, there’s no doubt that it’s biting at the heels of several sectors who rely on advertisement to make money, let alone the advertisers themselves who pay to reach an audience, and are blocked at the door.

For now, in order to undo the default ad block, users are recommended to go to, and then Connexion Internet –> Configuration –> Blocage de la publicité. Let’s hope that some open web people jump in and fix this, quick!

Continue the discussion on Hackernews!

26 Responses

  1. dan

    This is a serious disaster from the perspective of net neutrality. 🙁

  2. Roch Delsalle

    Apparently ads are not blocked on (co-owned by Xavier Niel)

  3. Darryl Wright

    Funding business and internet growth with ad revenue was always a precarious foundation for a market. As long as there is a way to avoid the intrusion of unsolicited content, people will. I hope there’s more moves like this to begin to pressure businesses to find new service-based revenue models.

    • Liam Boogar

      Great point Darryl – hope you enjoyed that Free Article you just read. Next time, before you read Rude Baguette, would you mind sending me $.99 via Paypal – I’m slowing weaning off our wretched Ad Model, and hoping you’ll be one of our early adopters.

    • Matthieu

      I don’t see the problem. If you think your content is worth value, just make people pay for it. If not, don’t consider it as a business.

      If nobody is willing to pay to read your website, it would mean that it is not good enough. Deal with it.

    • jolindien

      hehehe, if only…
      If you make people pay, you’ll divise the global online surf by 100. Yourself will have access to 100 times less content sources… for what in return ?
      This “all against online ad” war is ridiculous. why changing the model as it’s the least bad one.

      I don’t see any pb with having ads online (paid by willing companies) if I can get GGmaps, emails, youtube, news, etc. for free.

      hmm, the fact that the model isn’t the most balanced one is another story…

    • Sebc22

      Would you be that rude against that french ISP, if its box just forwarded the ad download request but did not relay it to the user (meaning the ad would be “seen” technically but never presented to the user) ?

      I’m afraid you’re only looking your side of the problem , and not considering it from the final user interest at all… I’m ok with that, you need money to support your website free model, but please did you ever considered how much you give from your readers to ad companies like google or to facebook with a simple facebook button ? Did you ever wonder if your readers would be happyu to be tracked here and there ? You’re selling our privacy, don’t you know ?

      BTW, from a net neutrality point of view, this move from Free is definitely evil. (but it’s been a while since firms started playing with DNS to lead users in packs to some ad page or to a “better” internet).

      For me, the only thing wrong is that the option is enabled as a default. It should not.

      PS : pardon my english, i’m french 😛

    • Liam Boogar

      If advertisers are not seeing return on investments from their advertising budgets, they will spend less,and independently owned websites will be unable to exist.

      You are 100% OK with information being free, but unable to accept that reading news for Free comes with a price, which is that I get to know your reading it.

      The argument of “ads are evil” is an easy cop-out to addressing the issue, which is that ads are the best way to keep things free. If you start blocking out one evil, your only going to see a worser evil pop-up – mid-text ads, unannounced sponsored stories, sponsored hyperlinks. Wherever there is an audience, there will be people willing to pay for that audience’s attention – visual ads are the most polite way to say “hey, I see you’re interested in X. Maybe you’ll like Y, too.”

    • Sebc22

      Well, to me, ads are not evil, they are mainly annoyance, but not evil.
      What i consider evil is the centralised ad companies, which collect information, and track you here and there, for targetted ad.
      My main problem is that i have no contract of any agreement with those firms, they are stepping in my private life, and i’ve no grasp on what they will do with it.
      Honnestly, if i could have some sort of engagement from them, telling they will never-ever use the data they collect for anything but sending (targetted) ads, i’d be fine with it (until they go pop-over, pop-under and opening 30 windows with a js confirm popup on unload 😀 )
      You may call me paranoid, but i’m sure you would not like to have someone peeping over your shoulder 24 hours a day…

    • jolindien

      “You’re selling our privacy, don’t you know”

      Come on! When you go shopping at Carrefour, just by your attitude, the way you talk, the products you put in your basket, the “carte client” you use, etc. you provide way much more details about you than you do by surfing the web. Why willing to be 100% anonymous on the web when you don’t mind being lightly identified in the normal life….

      As a reminder, the online ad systems don’t know who you are but what your internet-browser has displayed…

      The fact that you post a picture of yourself half-naked on facebook or click knowingly a suggestive content’s twitter button, and feared to be recognized by mummy is not an ad-related issue

  4. O Dee Green

    In my opinion, Internet advertising itself is partly to blame. Companies are so, so desperate for clicks that they resort to all sorts of dirty tricks to get them. Self-playing video ads, CPAlead-style gateways, pop-ups, hijackers, shady bundles, banners that blatantly trick the user posing as something else – on the whole, Internet advertising is in desperate need of ethics and regulations. Maybe a lot of users actually want to be rid of it all, y’know? On a related tangent, I think cold calling should be banned altogether. Once your number is out there to be sold and re-sold there’s no way to stop the spam calls unless you change it. True story.

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