AdBlock Plus: “We are not leading an anti-advertising crusade”
Eyeo is at the origin ofAdblock Plus (ABP), a solution used to block security devices tracking, malware, and intrusive web advertisements. Eyeo has recently become the target, in France, critics from the online advertising and publishing industry, in particular about its “Acceptable Ads” initiative and the “white list”. These reviews (especially during the Frenchweb Day Media 2015) apparently caused some surprise in Eyeo who claims to work for the good of all.
Eyeo says he believes in freedom of expression and accepts that his actions can be criticized. But in her view, constructive and fair debate can only take place if the facts being discussed are true and not distorted. Responses from Kai Recke, general counsel manager at Eyeo.
Frenchweb: How exactly does Adblock Plus work?
Kai Recke, general counsel manager: Adblock Plus allows Internet users to prevent the entry and / or display on their computers of items that they do not want to accommodate and / or see on their screens such as, for example, tracking and intrusive advertisements. It is the user who decides alone what he wants to block by choosing the filters written by himself or by the community of users of the ABP software. Since not all users are familiar with writing filters, there are out-of-the-box filter lists written by third parties that they can use: for example EasyList, a standard list, which includes filters for the elements that most Internet users want to block, or Easy Privacy which more specifically targets tracking.
What makes Adblock Plus such a popular ad blocker is that it doesn’t have an “all or nothing” approach. Unlike other ad blockers in the market, we are not on an anti-ad crusade. Based on the feedback we have from internet users, we are confident that many of our users are willing to accept the presence of advertisements on the internet if they do not turn their browsing into a dumpster ride. This is why we have created the “Whitelist” option, a feature that the user can deactivate or keep as he wishes and which enables what we call them. Acceptable Advertisements to be visible to our users. We inform all users of Adblock Plus, before and after any installation, whether or not they have the option of deactivating this option.
We can admit that some people criticize our product but we think that these criticisms are mainly based on a bad conception of what we do and what our values are. Our “Whitelist” approach is designed to benefit everyone.
Who decides what is “acceptable advertising” and how does it work? Whitelist ? Do we have to pay to be listed there?
First of all, who decides what is acceptable advertising? The community of our users expresses its point of view by several means: it can be an opinion poll, the forum…. Anyone interested can join this community and give their opinion. The criteria for evaluating acceptable advertising emerge from user feedback and are accessible to the public. In addition, our users validate this initiative every day by using our software and deciding not to deactivate the “Acceptable Advertising” option. If the rating criteria allowed intrusive advertising to pass, users would not make that choice and the compromise would fail. These criteria are not set in stone and may change depending on how they are perceived by the user community. If any editors or other stakeholders feel these criteria are unfair or irrelevant, they are more than welcome to participate in the forum or use any other means to tell us how to potentially improve things. We would be very happy to hear their point of view and discuss it with them. From a general point of view, we believe that such an approach, well carried out, would be beneficial for everyone. We listen to all the sources that tell us how to improve.
Then, with regard to the functioning of the Whitelist and its payment, all websites that meet the criteria of the Acceptable Advertising (and only those) can be part of the Whitelist. These websites don’t need to stop serving their regular ads (although we encourage them to), they can dynamically turn them into Acceptable Advertisements every time an ABP user visits their site. In this way, websites address ABP users in a specific way and can regain their trust. Our software will never ignore user choice. Each application for the Whitelist is submitted to the community on the forum for discussion. Let’s be perfectly clear: there is absolutely no way to be listed on the Whitelist without respecting the criteria of Acceptable Advertising.
So how does this money issue come into play? 90% of the websites of the Whitelist, including French bloggers and websites, were admitted to the Whitelist free. Eyeo requests compensation when the workload is heavy (e.g. due to the number of advertisements and websites affected, requests for assistance from Eyeo to tailor advertisements, level of technical support, need monitor changes and make updates, etc.). Overall, this concerns 10% of the websites of the Whitelist, sites that will increase their advertising revenue thanks to Acceptable Advertising.
And keep in mind that if our compromise fails, there will always be another ad blocker to take our place, and they may not want to compromise.
What is EYEO’s conception of the free and open Internet?
EYEO and its detractors obviously do not share the same definition of these terms. For us, the “freeThe Internet is an Internet that respects users and does not treat them as products.
In the beginning, the Internet was an incredible space for exchange and freedom. It was fine for publishers to provide their content for free. The publicity was incidental and was only support. But things have changed and some operators have apparently decided that the main purpose of the internet is to drown internet users in a massive wave of intrusive ads and to trade by stalking them and selling their personal data.
Today, advertising is almost omnipresent and, page after page, Internet users are interrupted in their navigation by pop-up, pop-under, advertisements that are suddenly imposed on you by flashing or even screaming. More so, all their movements are monitored and recorded in order to target them with even more publicity.
Some people claim that the “freeThe Internet would be “free content against advertising”. But have Internet users been asked what kind of Internet they would like? Have they accepted to be harassed by advertising pollution? Did they say they were delighted that their privacy was being trampled on and their personal data being treated as commercial commodities? Obviously no. The change in mindset of the Internet has taken place without the consent of its users and generally without their knowledge.
Faced with this opacity, more and more users have chosen to resist by using tools like Adblock Plus. The use of blocking devices is encouraged by personal data protection authorities and independent institutions such as Stanford University.
This raises financial questions for publishers. We understand this. And that’s exactly why we tried to find an intermediate path, a compromise that respects both points of view: the initiative Acceptable Advertisements. Give it a try and you will see for yourself! If Internet operators really cared about Internet users, they would respect their choices.
[Contenu proposé par Eyeo]