- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2013

Search and technology giant Google faced charges of censorship Thursday after it banned software applications that block online adverts users don’t want.

Adblock Plus, the most downloaded Web browser extension ever, and other blocker applications, are no longer available in the Google Play app store (the website from which users of Google’s Android phones can download applications) according to Adblock’s developers.

Google is censoring access to software, to information, that is not in line with its business interests,” Adblock Plus co-founder Till Faida told The Washington Times.

Mr. Faida said that the development was extremely worrying, given the enormous power that the company wields through its massive domination of the online search market.

“They have enormous power,” he said, “If they get away with this, what is to stop them from abusing it again? For example by banning adblocking software [for desktop computers] or even fixing search results” so users can no longer find such software even outside Google’s own app store.

A spokeswoman for Mountain View, Calif-based Google, Inc., said the company was booting Adblock Plus from the Play Store for a violation of the rules for app developers.

An email to Mr. Faidal from Google said Adblock Plus was in violation of a section of the Play Store rules that bans any app that “interferes with, disrupts, damages, or accesses in an unauthorized manner the devices, servers, networks, or other properties or services of any third party.”

Google spokeswoman, Samantha Smith declined to give further details of the decision, but referred a reporter to an app developers’ bulletin board where some developers complained that adblocking was threatening the basis of free software.

One developer, called Alex, who produces an app that measures barometric pressure, noted that “80 percent” of app users had some kind of ad-blocking or removal software; “And this number increases everyday.”

The growing use of such apps “can dramatically deteriorate [the] quality of free software,” he wrote.

“In our view, that is not valid,” said Mr. Faida, “the [Android phone] user has the right to control their own incoming web traffic” including whether or not to allow ads to load.

AdBlock Plus, which has been downloaded more than 200 million times, does not necessarily block all ads.

Instead, it allows users to filter out annoying, intrusive and bandwidth-hogging online adverts — for instance ones involving self-launching video commercials — but lets them see static ads or other categories they can choose.

Andriod phone users who want to load the Adblock Plus package will now have to find it elsewhere on the Internet, and then perform a series of technical modifications to their phone before it will load and work.

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