Video Ad-Block for Twitch extension banned from Chrome and Firefox for redirecting users and injecting referral links
Video ads are perhaps the most annoying thing on the internet. This is one of many reasons why one should use an ad-blocker, but what happens when an add-on that is supposed to protect you goes rogue? That, sadly, is what has happened to the Video Ad-Block for Twitch extension.
The add-on, which was available for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, had over 600,000 users. The GitHub page for the Video Ad-Block for Twitch extension has vanished, which was the first bad sign. Here is a web archive page of the original repo.
What followed was worse, the add-on had been updated, and requested new permissions. More specifically, the extension wanted to "Read and change your data on all Amazon sites". Some users spotted that product listings on Amazon.UK ended with a referral tag "aradb-21", which the browser plugin began injecting. The extension's developer could earn a commission, when someone buys a product after clicking the affiliate URLs.
It's not just that, the add-on is actually redirecting requests made to Amazon.UK, without the user being aware of this. Both of these things violate some policies, and considered malware. So it is not surprising that Google and Mozilla have banned the extension from their extensions repositories. If you are using the Video Ad-Block for Twitch extension, you should uninstall it right away. For those who are interested in the technical side of things, here is the code that was used to redirect users.
A few months ago, Raymond Gorhill, the creator of uBlock Origin, had praised such add-ons because extensions dedicated to blocking ads on a single site are updated faster and offer better support than regular ad blockers. Ironically, his comment was written on a discussion related to the then-unblocked add-on. Who could have predicted the fall of such a popular extension? But, don't worry about it, there are a couple of alternative methods that are readily available.
What should you use to block ads on Twitch?
Another developer has forked a clean version of the add-on, and provides it under the name, Twitch Adblock. It is free, open source, and has a cheeky description mocking the original extension's malpractices. The extension is available for Firefox and Chrome. It has been recommended by a member of the uBlock Origin team, as a proper alternative for the Video Ad-Block for Twitch extension.
uBlock Origin does a lot of things well, but it struggles with ads on Twitch, because Amazon keeps updating its systems to combat ad blockers. Why? Because Twitch offers an ad-free experience as part of its Twitch Turbo plan, which costs $8.99/month, and that's easy money for the company. That being said, there is a way to get the add-on to block ads on Twitch, by editing the filters and changing some settings.
How to configure uBlock Origin to block ads on Twitch
1. Click on uBlock Origin's button, and open the Dashboard.
2. Switch to the My Filters tab.
3. Paste the following line in it.
4. Apply the Changes.
5. Go to the main Settings page of uBlock Origin, and toggle the checkbox next to "I am an Advanced User."
6. Click the gear icon next to it. Set the value of the userResourcesLocation to https://github.com/pixeltris/TwitchAdSolutions/raw/master/notify-strip/notify-strip-ublock-origin.js
7. Hit the Apply Changes button to save the settings.
Note: You can also use notify-swap version that's available via the link below, if the video freezes for you.
8. Restart the browser, and try watching the Twitch videos which displayed ads. The ads should no longer be displayed in the videos.
It is unclear why the Video Ad-Block for Twitch extension went bad. Rumors suggest that the developer sold it to a third party, and that they made the add-on switch from an open source project, to a closed model. This is not the first time an extension sold out its users, and it probably won't be the last.Advertisement