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Firefox has been secretly hiding porn sites you visited from your new tab page

Mozilla has a secret porn blacklist in its Firefox web browser.

firefox adult filter blocking out pornhub
Image: ZDNet

Depending on how you look at this, Firefox’s secret porn filter that stops adult sites showing up on the new tab page is either a blessing in disguise or downright creepy. Okay, it’s still creepy as it means that Mozilla, the self-styled paradigm of the open internet is both watching what you do, and censoring some parts of it from showing in their browser.

Before I go on, yes, I know they’re not censoring the adult sites themselves. That would likely incite a much bigger response from netizens, as porn is as essential to the web as cat videos.

This isn’t anything new

The feature isn’t new by any means, dating back to 2014. As often is the case, some Redditors found the function and posted about it both in 2017 and today. In its current form, the feature only prevents thumbnails/tiles for adult sites appearing in the Top Sites and Highlights sections of the new tab page of the Firefox browser.

I have to wonder what happened in the meetings at Mozilla when this feature was under development. The company’s manifesto is against censorship, and recently when the Indian government tried to turn online companies into censors, Mozilla had strong objections.

Maybe they thought that the privacy of the user is paramount, and felt no need to broadcast recently visited adult content sites on the new tab page. That might save you an embarrassing moment from your coworker looking over your shoulder, but does bring questions of another kind – If Mozilla can decide to censor sites on a case-by-case basis, what’s to stop them omitting any other type of content in the same manner?

Advertising ruins everything

It turns out that the truth is advertising dollars. In 2014, the Firefox New Tab page had a “Suggested Tiles” section which both showed the user’s most visited sites and sponsored posts from advertising partners.

Yes, corporate greed and a need to create revenue made Mozilla break/bend/ignore its own censorship tenets. Those advertising partners didn’t want their paid-for sponsored posts to turn up, even accidentally, next to adult content. They also added blacklists for piracy and torrent sites so that they wouldn’t turn up next to DVD advertising.

Great job Mozilla.

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Maker, meme-r and unabashed geek. Hardware guy here at KnowTechie, if it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't) I probably have one around here somewhere. My hobbies include photography, animation and hoarding Reddit gold.

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