Posts tagged ‘surveillance capitalism’


The next lot to be removed: Disqus

08.07.2022


 
Years ago, we removed the Facebook widgets from Lucire’s pages. Last year, there were Instagram’s and Twitter’s turns, after each of those platforms locked us out (though later we regained access, and in Twitter’s case we issued a veiled threat to their lawyers). Last night, it was Disqus’s turn as we removed the commenting gadget from the Lucire site.

Obviously, not having Disqus’s trackers was a big plus, and speeding up page-load times, but there were two other major considerations: readers seldom comment these days (fashion is less divisive than politics), and, we have no idea where the money for all the Disqus advertising is.

I seem to recall that we were nearing their US$100 payment threshold, and I had in mind that once we hit it, I’d take the ads off. They were pretty ugly anyway.

Logging in yesterday, I was surprised to see Disqus claimed we had earned a little over US$3 now, while there is no record of any payment to us in the last year. Disqus also has nowhere on its site detailing payments made. Nor has it any feedback forms for non-subscribers (though you could argue that we have “paid” them in terms of the space their ads took up on the Lucire website all these years). I posted a question on their forum—the best I could do there. Seventeen hours later, no answers.

Right after that, we removed the Disqus gadget on all of Lucire’s static (HTML) pages, and switched off the Disqus plug-in on the WordPress (news) part of the site for posts going forward. No pay, no stay. I also removed the default comment boxes for the last 100 stories, though I might still change my mind and reinstitute them. If I do, they’ll be native ones, not anything to do with a plug-in that slows things down.

All those years, adding plug-ins that were once far more innocent; as each one became part of the surveillance economy, the detriments began to outweigh the benefits. What’s interesting to me is, other than the Facebook widget, their removal came after they prompted us with something dodgy, not because we suddenly had concerns about their tracking. Till I started investigating, I didn’t even realize how bad the problem was, though with hindsight of course I should have known, given how I’ve banged on about Facebook and Google. Part of me thought wishfully about Twitter, and as for our Instagram gadget, it was being run through another service (which might have been worse since it meant another company knowing stuff), and back when Instagram was a thing, I thought our readers would enjoy it.

I’m not consistent as Autocade’s Disqus forms are still up (at least on desktop), but they don’t have the dreaded Disqus ads, and readers actually comment there. But I will have a look for a good alternative—and I won’t be touching any of those Disqus settings as I don’t wish for the ugly ads to be introduced.

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Posted in business, internet, media, publishing, technology | No Comments »


Pirate sites, content mills and splogs exist because of Google

25.06.2022

In chatting to Alexandra Wolfe on Mastodon about the previous post, I had to draw a sombre conclusion. If it weren’t for Google, there’d be no incentive to do content mills or splogs.

I replied: ‘People really are that stupid, and itʼs all thanks to Google. Google doesn’t care about ad fraud, and anyone can be a Google publisher. So scammers set up fake sites, they have a script trawling Google News for stories, and they have another script that rewrites the stories, replacing words with synonyms. Google then pays them [for the ads they have on their sites]. Every now and then they get someone like me who tries to look after our crew.’

Google is the biggest ad tech operator out there. And over the years, I’ve seen them include splogs in Google News, which once was reserved only for legitimate news websites. And when we were hacked in 2013, the injected code looked to me like Google Adsense code. You could just see this develop in the 2000s with Blogger, and it’s only worsened.

Have a read of this piece, which quotes extensively from Bob Hoffman, and tell me that Google doesn’t know this is happening.

Google is part of the problem but as long as they keep getting rich off it, what motive do they have to change?

Speaking of ad fraud, Bob Hoffman’s last couple of newsletters mentions the Association of National Advertisers, who reported that ad fraud would cost advertisers $120 milliard this year. Conveniently enough for the industry, the ANA’s newsletter has since disappeared.
 
I still haven’t got into programmatic or header bidding or all the new buzzwords in online advertising, because I don’t understand them. And as it’s so murky, and there’s already so much fraud out there, why join in? Better buying simple ads directly with websites the old-fashioned way, since (again from Hoffman, in the link above):

Buying directly from quality publishers increases the productivity of display advertising by at least seven times and perhaps as much as 27 times compared to buying through a programmatic exchange.

Everyone wins.

And:

Ad tech drives money to the worst online publishers. Ad tech’s value proposition is this: we will find you the highest quality eyeballs at the cheapest possible locations. Ad tech can do this because your web browser and mobile platform are vulnerable to a problem called ‘data leakage’ where your activity on a trusted site is revealed to other companies … If you’re a quality online publisher, ad tech is stealing money from you by following your valuable audience to the crappiest website they can be found on, and serving them ads there instead of on your site.

In other words, Google et al have an incentive to give ads to sploggers, who are getting rich off the backs of legitimate, quality publishers. And as to the intermediaries, I give you Bob Hoffman again, here.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, publishing, technology, USA | No Comments »