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Lawmakers Pressure Advertising Community to Stop Ad-Supported Rogue Sites

Industry needs to go beyond best practices

Adam Schiff | Photo: Getty Images

Some lawmakers are growing impatient with the advertising community, which they believe hasn't done enough to stop ads from appearing on sites that steal copyrighted material.

Firing off a letter Tuesday to the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A's and the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the co-chairs of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus said they want to push the advertising community beyond adopting best practices to take more aggressive steps that will keep their ads from showing up on piracy sites.

Citing a study issued by the Digital Citizens Alliance, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) were alarmed that rogue sites pulled in $227 million in advertising last year.

"We support these steps [the advertising community has taken], but note that much remains to be done to operationalize the commitments made and to make them effective in preventing the appearance of legitimate ads on pirate sites, rather than simply responding once they are placed. Best practices are useful, but greater specificity is needed around preventative measures that participants in the digital advertising ecosystem can, and should, take to avoid the placement of ads on piracy sites, as well as the development of metrics to measure the effectiveness of these steps," the lawmakers wrote. "Only through proactive efforts will the harms associated with ad-supported piracy be mitigated."

Since advertisers made the initial commitment two years ago to combat ads on pirate sites, technology has improved that would allow the industry to be more proactive, the lawmakers said. "Marketplace solutions are emerging, and the time is ripe for stakeholders to come together with a renewed focus on developing and implementing a more effective preventive regime," the lawmakers wrote.

Advertisers don't want ads to appear on rogue sites in the first place because it gives a bad name to brands, but finding solutions has been challenging.

"The advertising community is increasingly concerned about how their business practices are being undermined and damaged by piracy and click fraud, which could be as much as a third of what people are spending. The dollars are enormous," said Dan Jaffe, evp of the ANA. "We have tremendous financial incentives to resolve these issues. As a group, we've made this a priority. We agree best practices aren't the final issue."

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