The problems of malicious ads and ad fraud have become widespread and are major annoyances and threats to users. Those issues have led to the huge popularity of ad blocking extensions for browsers, but a backlash from the online ad industry has now reached a fever pitch as industry groups work to frame the issue as one of free speech.
In a speech at its annual conference Monday, Interactive Advertising Bureau President and CEO Randall Rothenberg said that ad blocking companies are “profiteers” and called Adblock Plus, perhaps the most prominent of those companies, “unethical, immoral”. The comments came after the IAB blocked Adblock Plus representatives from attending the conference, which company executives decried the decision on the company’s blog.
“Like dis-inviting us will make the problem somehow go away! We contacted the IAB’s CEO Randall Rothenberg directly to ask him to reconsider this decision, and we got … crickets …,” Ben Williams, operations and communications manager at Adblock Plus, wrote.
On Monday, Rothenberg said in his speech that Adblock Plus was never invited to the conference.
“Now, you may be aware of a kerfuffle that began about 10 days ago, when an unethical, immoral, mendacious coven of techie wannabes at a for-profit German company called AdBlock-Plus took to the digisphere to complain over and over that IAB had ‘disinvited’ them to this convention. That, of course, is as much a lie as the others they routinely try to tell the world. We had never invited them in the first place,” Rothenberg said in his speech.
Gothenburg went on to say that Adblock Plus is infringing on the rights of publishers.
“For the simple reason that they are stealing from publishers, subverting freedom of the press, operating a business model predicated on censorship of content, and ultimately forcing consumers to pay more money for less – and less diverse – information,” he said.
The idea of users wanting to block online ads is as old as online ads themselves, and the main reason that ad blockers have become so popular is the intrusiveness of many ads, not to mention the potential malicious links or content in some ads. Government agencies have worked to regulate the online ad industry, with limited success, and third-party efforts to limit ad tracking such as Do Not Track that largely have been unsuccessful, as well. That has led to the rise of ad blockers, a phenomenon that shows no signs of abating.
Image from Flickr stream of Richard Winchell.