After the ABC News site auto-reloaded the page three times while I was trying to watch an 18-minute segment from This Week, I went hunting for a way to make Firefox prevent this. Fortunately, it’s wonderfully easy. Go to about:config, bypass the warning message, and look for “accessibility:blockautorefresh.” By default, this is set to false. Set it to true, and Firefox will prompt you for approval whenever a site tries to refresh itself.
If you’re wondering why so many sites auto-refresh these days, it’s basically a cheap and easy way to inflate our pageview counts. What we tell you, of course, is that we want to make sure that if you keep the site open in a tab while you click away, we want to make sure you see the freshest content when you click back. I strongly suspect if that were really our primary motive, we’d find a way to update our pages with AJAX, thereby preventing a severely annoying disruption of the site experience.