It is official, after 22 months of painstaking investigation and being the focal rallying point for naive liberals everywhere, not just America, the Mueller report has finally dropped with the lack of conclusive evidence that there are any kind coordinated efforts between the Trump campaign and Russia or whether Trump illegally obstructed justice. This is despite the fact that multiple people that are, or were, closely associated with Trump have plead guilty from findings that have emerged during the Mueller probe.
If there’s one phrase that perfectly describes how the Trump administration has been so far, it is ethically compromised, and this is coming from someone whose knowledge of American politics mostly comes from the headlines. From Trump to Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin scandal and to the hate speech of Fraser Anning, the discussion of ethics has been at the forefront of our daily lives. Ethics aren’t just limited to politics, it’s a code of proper conduct that encompasses every facet of our lives and they are everywhere, including in the world of web design and development.
Fair trade coffees and ethically sourced fashion items
Maybe it’s because the internet has a way of amplifying things which makes it harder for us to look away from the monstrosities performed to sustain our climate of our consumerism but for those with the means to care about things like these, ethics is now a serious consideration for products. You might’ve heard of the term of fair trade coffees, which are coffees sourced under fair trade practices meant to protect small farmers in developing countries.
Coffee is mainly exported from countries in or around the equator and fair trade coffee is mainly a way to protect farmers from these developing countries from being exploited by industrialized nations. This is also the same line of thinking behind ethically sourced diamonds, which are meant to ensure that the diamonds you’re wearing is free from the kind of conflict that is so common within the industry. These ethically sourced products are there to ensure that what you’re wearing or consuming didn’t come from dubious practices such as forced child labor or that the money isn’t used to fund the activities of a tribal warlord as is the case with blood diamonds.
The field of web design and development is thankfully free from such dilemmas but given what happened with Facebook and what the social network giant did with their users’ data, web design and development isn’t free from ethical considerations. Tim Berners-Lee wrote an open letter on the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web reflecting on how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go in making the web a better place. The web is far from perfect and there are thing we have to do and to look out for to help nudge it along a better path.
Intrusive ads and anything that would impede your browsing experience
I assume that by now, you already have an ad blocking software installed and running on your browser. If you’re the responsible kind, you might already have several frequently visited websites whitelisted to show that you are supporting them but it’s also understandable that you don’t and this is because some ads can get pretty crazy. There are ads that are bad because they’re advertising the wrong kind of contents and there are ads that are bad in how they’re placed and the question of which is worse, not better, is up to each person.
I once visited a music blog where the ads consist to clickbaity contents with photos of women in very skimpy clothes acting as the draw. These kinds of ads aren’t just annoying; they could also give the wrong impression to your coworkers and superiors when you’re browsing at work. I’m fine if the ads are just for flight promotions and whatever Uniqlo is selling right now but when cheap clickbaits and ads, two things that are pretty much the bane of the internet, are combined; that’s where I draw the line.
The other example of bad ads are those that are excessively plastered across the main section of your website that makes it a hassle for users to navigate your website and enjoy the actual contents of your website. On top of that there are also large, multimedia banner ads that use up additional computing resources, which could negatively impact the performance of your computer and make the website slower overall. I get that there are websites whose revenue mainly comes from clicks and ad revenues but intrusive ads isn’t the solution.
There is also the practice of cryptojacking, which coincides with the cryptocurrency boom of the past several years. Because of how rampant ad blocking software is, some websites have to look for other source of revenues, usually by instituting a paywall but thanks to the cryptocurrency boom, some websites experiment by using the computing power of viewers’ computer to mine for cryptocurrency. Some websites like Salon ask for users’ permission before doing this while others don’t, giving rise to the term cryptojacking.
Websites that works on clickbait and viral contents with little regard for the truth
One of the things that Berners-Lee underline in his letter as the problem affecting today’s internet is “system design that creates perverse incentives where user value is sacrificed, such as ad-based revenue models that commercially reward clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation”. This was one of the most common complaints thrown at Facebook and in their latest move; they’ve made a vow to stem the spread of vaccine misinformation on their platform.
In practice, there are two kinds of websites that work using this practice. The first is your standard tabloids and gossips sites that use clickbait headlines and images in search of clicks and ad revenues. They’re not exactly harmless but the risk they pose is somewhat minimal as well. The real danger lies in the second kind, websites that provide misleading information to further an agenda, like the anti-vaccination movement and climate change denials. For the typical website owners, trafficking in these types of contents should be generally avoided at all costs.
The concept of data privacy and security
This directly relates to the scandal engulfing Facebook but the issue of data privacy has actually been in discussion for far longer than that, stretching all the way back from 2009 when Google started expanding from just the realm of their flagship search engine. If you’re the kind of website that regularly collects data on your users/customers, how you handle the security and privacy of that data should be a priority. Making sure that your website is adequately protected against malicious attack is one thing but you also have to make sure that the data you’ve collected stays between you and your users and that they aren’t being sold or used to anyone without the users’ explicit permission.