Snowden, Pussy Riot are fronting AdBlock's campaign against censorship

AdBlock users will see the faces of Ai WeiWei, Pussy Riot and Edward Snowden staring back at them today as part of an online campaign coordinated with Amnesty International to protest censorship.

For the next 24 hours beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern Time, users of AdBlock will notice that the advertising spaces where the technology usually wipes out ads will be replaced with boldly colored messages from the activists.

The online protest coincides with World Day Against Cyber Censorship and comes amid the news of government surveillance technology, like the case between Apple and the FBI, which triggered other tech companies to support Apple in its quest to resist the U.S. government’s demand to build a “backdoor” to access encrypted technology. It’s a stunt that’s fraught with irony, as many in the ad world consider blocking ads to be a form of censorship.

On AdBlock’s website, CEO Gabriel Cubbage explained that “hundreds of millions” of AdBlock users “save money on bandwidth, drastically speed up website performance, protect themselves from invisible tracking, and combat an emerging class of highly sophisticated ‘ad tech’ players, which have been automatically labeled the hottest thing going.”

Prominent anti-censorship activists including Snowden and Weiwei are featured in the Amnesty ads, that, when clicked, direct people to content from the organizations about governments looking to suppress free speech and access to information. “Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded,” reads Snowden’s ad.

“We’re showing you Amnesty International banners, just for today, because we believe users should be part of the conversation about online privacy,” Cubbage said. “Tomorrow, those spaces will be vacant again. But take a moment to consider that in an increasingly information-driven world, when your right to digital privacy is threatened, so is your right to free expression.”