Adblock Plus and (a little) more

The lonely bully: China issues edict to ban ad blockers · 2016-07-20 14:00 by Ben Williams

We can all remember the bully from our playground or neighborhood, right? But what we forget is how they were finally defeated, because even though they usually fall to the “hero” during the “big scene” in our films, in our lives they generally just fade away. After a time their game just gets stale, so people start going the other way – doing their own thing. It’s slow isolation that drops the bully, not a lightning bang.

There are apparently 159 million people who block ads on their mobile devices in China. Desktop numbers are relatively low by comparison. All of them, though, are going to have a fundamental right snatched from them come September, when their government will take away their right to block ads. That’s because just last week China issued its Internet Advertising Interim Rules, Article 16 of which will place a ban on ad blocking … thus spake the Bully.

Aside from the oppressive part … the new regulations will seek to define what constitutes online advertising. Among other things the rules seek to target false or misleading online advertising for prescription medicine and tobacco; require government approval to run ads for health products, medical supplies, veterinary medicine and pesticides; necessitate that paid search results be clearly differentiable from organic results; and oblige advertisers to be responsible for the authenticity of their ad content.

These are pretty good noises, but hidden among them is language that would seem to all but ban ad blocking. The concept of ad blocking has always been about putting power back into the hands of the consumer, so this robs them of what has become a basic right.

There are many reasons users need this control. Take, for instance, online safety. Most recently, in China itself actually, almost 10 million Android smartphones were infected by malware that generates fake ad clicks. Now, I’m not saying that those users would necessarily have been completely safe if they’d been running an ad blocker, but ad blocking and other tools that would fall under the ban help to mitigate or obliterate that risk.

Besides, that’s not the main reason people choose ad blockers: security, page-load speed, privacy protection and data costs are other factors for downloading one. But all these are just vying for second place behind the mother of all motivations: annoyance. In fact, we just commissioned a study with HubSpot in which respondents to a global survey again said that annoyance/disruption is the main reason they’d installed ad blockers.

Frankly, we don’t know at this point where this will all shake out. If we need to, we’ll pull ABP from China to protect users from any wrath. It’s at least comforting to know that such actions aren’t likely to be replicated elsewhere, at least if German law – where ad blocking as a right has been upheld in six straight court decisions – is anything to go by. In the meantime, let’s not follow the bully down its lonely path.

Comment [9]

  1. Adblock Fan · 2016-07-22 00:12 · #

    How would Adblock stop malware from malicious APKs?

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    I was referring to malware served through ads, i.e. “malvertising.” If you’re blocking most ads you have a much, much smaller chance of falling victim to it.

  2. Emre · 2016-07-22 06:28 · #

    >How would Adblock stop malware from malicious APKs?

    >> Edgewise. These apps use web browsers to fake clicks.. And when you use Adblock, any attempts would be useless since Adblock would not let ads to appear.. Really simple.

  3. Adblock Fan · 2016-07-22 11:44 · #

    No, most malicious APKs use simple HTTP API from Android to generate fake clicks. There’s very little chance for Adblock to impact this traffic.

  4. Mhy · 2016-07-23 04:34 · #

    Just pull it away from the mainland China! Hong Kong Special Administrative Region does not block Ad Block. HK and mainland China’s legal status is seperated.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    We really hope we don’t have to :) The only reason we would is to protect users or filter list maintainers from any legal issues. But the wording has come under scrutiny — some think it might not refer to ad blockers after all — so, well, fingers crossed.

  5. ash. · 2016-07-23 07:04 · #

    Well, I think this article misunderstood the Internet Advertising Interim Rules. What it says is that an advertiser should not use software or hardware to block, filter, cover or skip ads provided by other advertisers.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Let’s hope that’s what it means :) You could indeed be right — it’s still a little vague at this point.

  6. whyyyyy · 2016-07-23 17:09 · #

    like british law and scottish law.
    if the torie government baned adblockers it can be made redundant in scotland.
    and also whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy would you ban adblockers anyways.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Why indeed …

  7. Aaron · 2016-07-25 19:48 · #

    I know this may be slightly off topic, but I just wanted to say thank you again Ben for this wonderful service that is adblock that you have provided this world. You have made one of the best ad blocking softwares ever(probably the best) and I think it speaks even louder of who you are that you have made it so that anyone can use it.

    It is unfortunate for China to try and restrict adblock, but then again this is China we are talking about and the people within there have always found ways to ignore and get around their great blockades ever since these silly rules came out. But once again, I have to just throw in there one more time, thank you for blessing us all with Adblock!

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks, Aaron, for the kind words. I think I can speak for everyone here at ABP when I say that this sort of encouragement drives us forward daily.

  8. James Smith · 2016-07-25 23:02 · #

    I’m using this app last 2 year Adblockers is very effective app. I’m giving 5 star to Adblockers.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks!

  9. Alok · 2016-08-05 18:03 · #

    Firstly, thanks for ABP and secondly, I am sure all you lovely people at ABP will figure a brand new way to keep the adds at bay. :D

    Just reading between the lines, I guess, but doesn’t point C of Article 16 violate point B regarding “illegitimate interests”. Not being able to block adverts seems like someone was not making enough money and whined to the government to do their work.

    And what is considered “Normal Advertising Data” ?? Tracking adverts or malware !!??

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hey Alok,
    Thanks for the support! I wish I could shed some light on the questions you raise, but unfortunately the document is all we have to go on. And it’s pretty vague. I can say that at this point it’s not 100 percent certain that they intend to disallow ad blocking … so fingers crossed at this point.

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