Brother Craig here was researching a medical question on the Internet when suddenly a window popped up warning that his computer was at risk for being hacked.
Did he want to protect it?
Brother clicked on “Yes.” This led to a “pop-up” advertisement offering to sell him an antivirus program. He closed the pop-up window only to find the “at-risk” window still there. When he went to close it, up came the antivirus ad again. Guess what happened when he went to close that window?
The pop-up window seesaw game went on until Brother managed to close both windows. But the frustrations weren't over yet. There still remained an advertising pop-up window; evidently, it had been hiding in the background. That one closed without incident — but, in the midst of all this, the original medical site Brother had wanted to peruse had somehow closed, too.
Right after this incident I was in the office at the chancery and one of the staff members had a computer problem. There must have been 10 pop-up window advertisements on her screen and she didn't know how to close them. They were all minimized on her task bar. I right-clicked on each one and selected close on them all. Someone in the chancery mentioned to me they were working on protecting the chancery network users from these annoying advertisements.
Pop-up advertising has gone beyond annoying. Brother Ryan here had his computer lock up because so many pop-up ad windows were left open on his desktop. Thinking he could just ignore them, he minimized them on the taskbar and let them keep piling up. He learned that computers do have limitations.
I had to move our message boards off a free service I was using called ezboard because of its aggressive pop-up advertising. I found it almost impossible to get around on our boards because of the many pop-up windows that kept opening to try to get me to buy things.
Now I realize that Web sites have to fund themselves and that advertising plays a big role in their revenue generation. People were ignoring banner advertising, so now the idea is to make sure you don't miss the advertisement. This would be tolerable if we were talking about an occasional pop-up window. But some sites throw four or more at you in rapid succession. And closing them all only leads to more being thrown at you. Try moving on to get away from certain Web sites, and multiple windows keep popping up. I don't know about you, but for me such aggressive advertising drives me away from a site. I wonder if the site designers have ever tried to navigate their own sites and had to put up with an avalanche of pop-ups!
Annoying is one thing — but deceitful advertising is another. Like Brother Craig with the virus scare, many people are being tricked into downloading files they don't want or visiting sites they don't want to go to. A certain advertiser's pop-ups force-feed your computer a file even if you have done nothing at all to ask for it. The download window pops up on your computer, asking you where on your hard drive you want to store the program. When it happens to me, I immediately hit the cancel button. I'm sure that some people don't know enough to hit that cancel button and do download it.
Nor is deceitful advertising limited to the pop-up window variety. Banner advertising can also use tricks to make you click. Some e-mail advertising employs tricks as well. I'm sure you've seen them. Here's one I recently received that had in the subject line: “$2,500 confirmed. Please verify your identity.” Upon opening the e-mail, of course, things change. You are now told: “GUARANTEED AWARD PAYMENT OPPORTUNITY up to $2,500.” Naturally the “up to” part is in small letters. You are given a link to claim your prize. If you just happen to read the bottom of the e-mail you find, “By registering for GroupLotto and playing our game 10 times on the date of registration, everyone wins at least $1 and you are entered into our $2,500 monthly cash prize drawing.” So my confirmed $2,500 becomes $1! And, of course, to collect that dollar, I have to register with PayPal.
So how can you defend yourself against intrusive advertising on the Internet? If you don't want to pay anything, you can close pop-up windows by pressing Ctrl + W or clicking on the X in the upper-right hand corner of the window. If it is minimized on your taskbar, right-click on it and select “close.” To shut out the advertising altogether, you might want to download the free utility called WebWasher at webwasher.com. Another free program like this, called Guidescope, can be found at guidescope.com. With e-mail you'll have to look at the e-mail program you are using to see if it has any filtering capabilities. For Outlook Express, select Tools>Message Rules>Blocked Senders List from the menu toolbar. Click on the Add button to send specific advertisers immediately to the Deleted Items folder.
Don't let pop-up advertising be the bane of your Internet experience. There's too much good to see and do on the Web to let the experience be ruined by hyper-aggressive sales pitches.
Brother John Raymond, co-founder of the Monks of Adoration, writes from Venice, Florida.