Fact-checking Adblock Plus allegations · 2016-11-02 13:00 by Ben Williams

Less than one week out from the US election, we thought we’d use an election-year staple – the fact checker – to confront head-on some of the things that have been said about us. Typically, when the IAB or others make crazy accusations about us, we try to take the high road and not respond. But we felt it was time to set the record straight on some core truths.

Everything we do, and every product we introduce, ties right back to Eyeo’s core mission of empowering users for a sustainably free web. So it’s important for our loyal users to understand the reasons for our actions, especially when our critics are telling slants, spins and downright lies about us.

Plus, fact checkers are just fun – so here we go!

#1

Spurious statement #1: The criteria for what makes Acceptable Ads are murky and “lack transparency.”

Fact: Anybody claiming this statement is just lazy. A five-second web search for “acceptable ads criteria” or “acceptable ads” gives you three links right at the top that take you directly to the answer.

#2

Spurious statement #2: Companies can pay-to-play to be added to ABP’s whitelist.

Fact: No, no and no. Not even a $Bazillion dollars can buy your way past ABP’s blocking filters. We created the whitelist to help well-meaning websites stay in business – but the only way to be considered for the whitelist is to submit an application that’s recorded in an open, public forum, then verify that the ads you’d like to whitelist all comply with the Acceptable Ads criteria. It costs exactly $0 for most companies to be whitelisted, but we do ask that very large companies support the whitelisting community by paying in a contribution. In full transparency, we explain exactly who pays and how much in three different places right on our website:

1) Homepage > About (in the menu there’s a dedicated link, How are we financed?)
2) Homepage > Configurable (in the 2nd bullet next to the video)
3) Homepage > Acceptable Ads (in the resources footer)

#3

Spurious statement #3: Eyeo is secretive about which companies are on their whitelist.

Fact: Not at all. Just look at the public forum linked to on our homepage where we list them all.

#4

Spurious statement #4: Adblock Plus now sells ads.

Fact: Nope, not even close. Even a peek at our press release or casual read about our new certification tool shows that it simply allows publishers to whitelist ads faster while ingeniously making sure they meet the Acceptable Ads criteria … we absolutely do not, and will not, sell ads.

Our mission is to empower users to keep the web free – that’s why we encourage partial ad blocking. Out of the box, Adblock Plus comes with whitelisted ads enabled. It’s your choice to turn it off if you want, but we think it’s better to let well-meaning ads through. But selling ads? No way.

#5

Spurious statement #5: Adblock Plus is extortion.

Or, as IAB president Randall Rothenberg put it at speech at the 2016 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting: “For that is what Adblock-Plus is: an old-fashioned extortion racket, gussied up in the flowery but false language of contemporary consumerism.”

Fact: No, Randall, you’re wrong. Consumer dissatisfaction with an advertising industry that forgot them has driven hundreds of millions to download ad blockers. For our part, we at Eyeo encourage a middle-ground stance toward advertising, and we’re working with users to perfect a system to make partial ad blocking a big piece of a complete cure. That is not extortion. All of these outlets agree with us:

Comment [19]

  1. JoJoJonas · 2016-11-02 15:14 · #

    right, that is indeed fun. Well, actually it’s ridiculous….

    #2 “In full transparency, we explain exactly who pays and how much…”

    So, how much does Google pay? Or Amazon? Ebay? Microsoft? I just can’t find that exact information anywhere on your website. 30 % of the additional revenue created by whitelisting? How much would that be? No way. You guys charge flat fees. Please, explain EXACTLY HOW MUCH these companies pay. Full transparency, right?

    #4 “…we absolutely do not, and will not, sell ads”

    Your press release says you’re running an adtech platform to provide publishers with acceptable ads. Do you just give away these ads for free? Or will the publisher have to pay for that “service”? If it’s just to simplify whitelisting and, as you say, some companies have to pay to get whitelisted, that’s pretty much…selling ads. Where would be the difference?

    #5 “That is not extortion”

    Someone runs a restaurant. You’ll be like: That’s a nice restaurant you got there, pay me 10k and i won’t burn it down. Well, that would be extortion, right?

    Someone runs a website. You’ll be like: That’s a nice website you got there, pay me 10k and i won’t block all the ads you need to finance it. Well, that would be…? C’mon. Again, where’s the difference?

    I got another outlet for you. Higher Regional Court of Cologne: Whitelisting is an aggressive practice and not allowed in Germany

    http://meedia.de/2016/06/24/axel-springer-vs-eyeo-olg-koeln-erklaert-geschaeftsmodell-von-adblock-plus-fuer-rechtswidrig/

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    JoJoJonas,
    Yo, let me first apologize for not getting back to you sooner. I appreciate your comments, but they’re all paper-thin slander, and clearly motivated by … something, like maybe, hmmm? What? What’s your motivation, JoJoJonas?

    Anyway, let me answer your accusations in order. On monetization we tell you all we can. Of course we can’t tell you particulars of particular contracts. Grow up, dude. Next, “selling ads” — well, that would imply that we make or possess them, which we don’t. Adtech and serving ads is complicated — you should educate yourself on how this stuff works. Finally, ad blockers are a voice of users, not extortion. C’mon. The partial ad blocking we encourage is superior, because it empowers users while keeping the web sustainable.

    PS, It’s not illegal in Germany. The Springer appeal you point out primarily said ad blocking is legal. The whitelisting bit only applies to Springer if they should ever apply for it … and it’s being appealed.

  2. Some guy · 2016-11-02 16:08 · #

    Not sure why site owners think slandering ABP is a smart idea, all they’re doing is pushing users to other adblockers that don’t implement acceptable ads at all, so they’ll make even less money. The power is in the hands of the users, they decide what they do or don’t want to see.

    It’s not like ABP users will just stop using adblockers completely.

    If anything they should be thanking you for providing a path to sustainability rather than everyone-blocks-everything oblivion that was the previous course.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Well said, Some guy. It’s a tricky compromise, but you hit the nail right on the head: it starts with recognizing that ad-blocking users form a distinct ecosystem that must be dealt with in a special way.

  3. Another guy · 2016-11-02 20:59 · #

    First comment nails it. You (Eyeo) are a liar. You’ve already been convicted in court of what you are trying to deny have been doing. You’re like cancer for the free and independent web.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Stop denying reality, Another guy. We tell you everything we do. If you don’t like it, fine — so what’s your idea to fix it? Are you on the ban-the-blockers bus?

  4. Trevor Marsh · 2016-11-02 21:30 · #

    Your can trumpet your “service” all you like but if your so convinced that your users agree, and support, your Acceptable Ads “service” then set Adblock Plus to block all ads by default and let your users decide for themselves if they want to enable Acceptable Ads.
    You have hundreds of thousands of users that you are misleading into believing Adblock Plus blocks ads while it doesn’t.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    How is letting them turn it off not letting them decide for themselves? And why on earth would we make the default option one we don’t prefer/support?

  5. Michael · 2016-11-03 04:50 · #

    “You’re like cancer for the free independent web”.

    Website ads are the equivalent to AIDS. Once loaded, banking Trojans, malvertising, cryptolocker, delivered to your computer from a independent website owner.

    There’s an old biblical saying, “Reap What You Sow”.

  6. Arch Michael · 2016-11-03 05:16 · #

    You realize ads can deliver “banking Trojans, malvertising, cryptolocker, delivered to your computer” only as much, as the page containing them or any web page can, don’t you? No, you don’t, because then you wouldn’t talk so much stupid.

    Fact is: ad blocking will not protect you from any of those threats. But it will prevent independent outlets from offering content and services for free to all of us, and will make all web sites either the mouthpiece of big corp or go subscription-based, where you have to pay cash if you want to access them.

  7. Michael · 2016-11-03 06:46 · #

    Constructing a business model upon a disruptive technology, without a plan A,B,C. “Border line idiocy”. Expecting Internet users to trade their privacy and security to fund Websites. Wishful thinking.

    Website fact checking is completely dead! Website’s have become nasty “Ghawker” click bait nonsense. Distorting the facts to appease or alienate a company. Stop the shilling! Ask Google, Facebook, Randall “Nuttier than squirrel sh*t” Rothenberg for your paycheque.

  8. Michael · 2016-11-03 07:38 · #

    Arch “Micky Mouse”.

    You sound like a disgruntled website owner who hasn’t heard of redirects. Allow me to enlighten you.

    Fact! Adblockers prevent malvertising.

    http://www.ghacks.net/2013/07/31/how-to-configure-adblock-plus-malware-social-media-button-and-tracking-blocking/

    http://www.networkworld.com/article/2973057/microsoft-subnet/how-adblock-plus-malware-protection-yahoo-malware-attack.html

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160111/05574633295/forbes-site-after-begging-you-turn-off-adblocker-serves-up-steaming-pile-malware-ads.shtml

    https://www.wired.com/insights/2014/11/malvertising-is-cybercriminals-latest-sweet-spot/

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/16/major-sites-new-york-times-bbc-ransomware-malvertising

    http://money.cnn.com/2015/01/08/technology/security/malvertising-huffington-post/index.html

    http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/01/06/yahoo-ads-are-targeted-in-malware-attack/

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/16/major-sites-new-york-times-bbc-ransomware-malvertising

  9. Larry · 2016-11-03 09:54 · #

    AdBlock Plus rocks!!! It is always the first extension I install. I support ABP 100%.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks for the support!

  10. Trevor Marsh · 2016-11-04 11:39 · #

    well because you, as well as I, know that the majority of users never go anywhere near the options in any piece of software.
    Synopsis – They want some software to block ads, do a google search and top of the list comes Adblock Plus; must be good, it’s got “Plus” in the name right? They download and install it and still get ads!
    By not making block all ads the default or at least, as part of the install routing, making it very obvious that Adblock Plus does nothing of the kind, you’re deliberately misleading a great proportion of your users.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    I see your point, but as the post tries to show, we do tell people three different places on the homepage about Acceptable Ads. It’s also a very obvious part of the installation on the first-run page.

    Still, if we’re not doing a good enough job communicating our mission, that’s on us. Do you have any other suggestions?

  11. Trevor Marsh · 2016-11-04 13:57 · #

    Give your customers the option at installation to accept ads or block all ads. At least then all users would have a choice rather than what happens now, they install and get annoyed as they still get ads.

    (this happened to my neighbour, he expected a product called Adblock Plus to, you know, block ads. Needless to say I pointed him in the direction of uBlock Origin and showed him how to white list pages he wished to support)

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks. That’s actually how we do it on the first-run page. Maybe try to install again, then tell me what you think about our specific wording, etc. Would love to get more feedback.

    You can always uninstall afterward, if you prefer. Of course, you could also just switch it off ;)

  12. Michael · 2016-11-04 14:52 · #

    Continuous whines about Adblock Plus’s Acceptable Ads policy, amazes me. They continue to whine, after switching to alternative adblocker.

    1/Adblock Plus is free software.
    2/Acceptable Ads format has existed since “2011”.
    3/Always uncheck Acceptable Ads box.

    I’ve got 99 problems, ABP’s Acceptable Ads isn’t one of them.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Appreciate the support, Michael! Thanks for using ABP.

  13. Angela Erin · 2016-11-04 20:48 · #

    I think Adblock is one of the best app compare to another app, this app giving me best perfomence from last 4 years.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks!

  14. Michael · 2016-11-05 07:40 · #

    Adblock Plus is the greatest adblocker, ever created. 2006, was the year websites received a rude awakening. Internet users became empowered, because of tiny little add on.

    Decade later, we can protect our privacy, revoke any annoying ads that appear on our screens. Stop malvertising from infecting our devices.

    Websites deplore ABP for empowering Internet users. Hence, nasty articles, misrepresentation, slander. They have no interest in repairing their broken business model. Desparately want to return to days of shoving ads down our digital throats. The Genie isn’t just out of the bottle, it’s oblitterated the bottle.

  15. Bobo · 2016-11-06 21:13 · #

    hi,
    interesting points.
    By the way when we go into the link provided on #3
    we can’t easily find the post you mention, about the list of whitelisted companies.
    Could you please paste its URL in here?
    thks

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hey, sorry you’re having trouble. Here’s the link: https://adblockplus.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=12

    What you’re seeing are separate entries for each whitelisted site. The first four posts are background/explanatory. After that each company/website is listed after its status in brackets, i.e. “[Added],” “[Removed],” etc. Hope that helps!

  16. Geanyy · 2016-11-07 09:02 · #

    After any new OS installation, the first website users visit is AdblockPlus.org to install ABP extension.

    Thank you.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thank you for using!

  17. Val-sama · 2016-11-16 09:56 · #

    The only thing that ever bothered me with Adblock Plus is that some websites prevented me from visiting them, by using an Adblock blocker. Not that any website is irreplaceable though, and the blocker removal list looks like it has expanded quite a bit.

    I appreciate the whitelisting idea a lot, because it’s a way to let website owners understand what would be an “accepable” advertisement, and as such contribute to making them more reasonable (albeit by force).

    And if any clarification was needed at this point… As for what JoJoJonas said about whitelisting being illegal in Germany : it is not. It is explained in the article they linked that the court deemed asking for a sum of money unnecessary for the moment, while waiting for a decision of the Bundesgerichtshof, yet the whitelisting in itself and the criteria for acceptable ads were great ideas. How to make up information, lesson one.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hey Val-sama,
    Thanks for the post. Regarding the ad block blocker, I think that will eventually go out of style. Solutions like that are focused on making as much money as possible in the short term, with no regard to longer term consequences. I mean, how long can an anti-user solution exist on the user-determined web?

    Just today, in fact, one of the best nonprofits that deals with digital ads, the Online Trust Alliance, released a paper on what constitutes trustworthy advertising. They make a point, in the press release even, of saying that ad blocker blocking is not the right path.

  18. Francisco Castello · 2016-11-16 18:52 · #

    Hey friends! How is your work against Facebook sponsored posts and ads?

    I have big interest about this, because, if Zuck is able to defeat adblockers, other sites will be able too. And I hope that never can happen.

    After all, you are the last big frontline against abusive ads and abusive sites that forces us to see the abusive ads.

    Thanks a lot!!!

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hey Francisco,
    Thanks for writing in. I was just speaking with a colleague about this yesterday, and we’re close to releasing a fix for it. Bear in mind that this probably won’t stop the cat-and-mouse game, which they seem pretty intent on playing.

    We’ll let you know!

  19. Max G · 2016-11-21 15:14 · #

    Guys.. really this is a pain in the a** to find the URL for Whitelist application :)

    My website definately meets your requirements,all my adds are only at the bottom of the pages, becouse I dont want to leave any visitor. Well I try it now :)

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Good point, Max. We’re trying to improve our website right now, actually. Stay tuned for improvements, and thanks for the feedback.

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