French ISP Free blocks ads via DSL modem

04 Jan, 2013

In a recent firmware release for its DSL modems, French ISP Free included an adblocker that is switched on by default. While there are plugins available for most browsers to block ads, apparently Free thought it was useful to include it in its hardware.

It’s a weird move, especially the fact that the ad blocker is switched on by default after the update – you have to access a menu on to switch the function off. Most people will probably not even notice it, or won’t know how to swtich it off.

French tech blog Clubic says that it seems that, for the moment, not a lot of sites are affected by the ad blocker: they tested it on Free’s own portal (nice touch) and found that they couldn’t see ads in their Paris offices, but in the Lyon offices they could.

It’s also questionable whether it’s legal for Free to decide for users which content will be displayed in their browsers and which content won’t. It seems to violate the principle of net neutrality:

Specifically, network neutrality would prevent restrictions on content, sites, platforms, types of equipment that may be attached, and modes of communication. Network owners can’t interfere with content, applications, services, and devices of users’ choice and remains open to all users and uses. (Wikipedia)

Free wasn’t available to answer Clubic’s questions about the ad blocker. If you know anything about the legal aspects of this, please let us know in the comments.

More: Clubic

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Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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