(Dennis Batchelder and Hong Jia - 3 November 2022)
First, we’ll start with the bad news. Unfair advertising pollutes every consumer’s browsing experience, and it sure seems like an impossible problem to solve. Who’s going to tell the big tech giants what to do, anyway? They control most browsers, search engines, and advertising, and they own many of the most popular websites – who can stand up to that?
But, as you might have expected, we have good news for you. Today we launched a way to fight ad pollution. It uses the same successful model we developed in our fight against unfair software apps, so we know it can work. You can read about the launch in our press release here.
About the model we’re using: we designed it around our belief that the best way to drive change in the software monetizer ecosystem was to split apps into three buckets: unwanted, potentially unwanted, and clean. After many pivots, trials, and assistance, we landed on three key initiatives:
- Define (and get them accepted) the rules for what makes an app unwanted.
- Raise urgency by publicly calling out the unwanted apps (we called them Deceptors).
- Work with the security industry to develop well-defined rules for what makes an app clean.
Our model and these initiatives worked well against unfair apps. Now we’re going to apply it to unfair advertising, Today, we announced the following:
- The publication of our first set of Polluter Indicators – rules that identify the kinds of unfair advertising practices that hurt consumers and ruin their browsing experiences.
- The release of our first set of ad-tech companies that we consider Ad Polluters, and a public call to block their ads.
- A partnership program with the security and ad-blocking ecosystems to accelerate the fight against ad pollution.
It’s a bit scary for our tiny company to call out these big names. But we’re convinced that their ad practices are both disrespectful and unfair to consumers, and that they need to change their behavior. We want the fight against ad pollution to extend beyond a theoretical privacy discussion; we want these companies held accountable for the mess they’ve made of internet browsing experiences. And we want them to change their ways, just like the software monetization industry has done.
Big tech wants us to believe that market forces alone can drive them to self-regulate, but looking at the awful state of ads today, we know this isn’t true. We see that as big tech dominates, the power of the consumer voice diminishes. Our fight against ad pollution is our attempt to bring the consumer perspective back to say which harmful and annoying advertising behaviors must be stopped.
Over the coming months we’ll update our Polluter list, announce browser tools that will automatically block just the ad polluters, give advice for how we think ad polluters should adjust their strategies, and work with partners to build up a strong enforcement ecosystem. We’d love to hear from you about our effort, or have you join us in the fight against ad pollution, or listen to your ideas on how we can improve.
Thanks, please help us spread the word, and stay tuned!