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Adblock Plus responds to UK culture secretary's 'ad blocking is a modern-day protection racket' jibe

Adblock Plus responds to UK culture secretary's 'ad blocking is a modern-day protection racket' jibe

john whittingdale

Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images

UK culture secretary John Whittingdale.

UK culture secretary John Whittingdale described ad blocking companies as a "modern-day protection racket" in a speech at the Oxford Media Convention on Wednesday, in which he promised to offer government support to publishers negatively impacted by ad blockers, The Guardian reported.

The Guardian said the speech was "particularly damning" about ad blockers that offer to whitelist certain publishers and advertising companies in return for payment.

Eyeo, parent company of popular ad blocker Adblock Plus, is probably the most well-known ad blocking firm that offers such a service, with its "Acceptable Ads" program. Companies including Google, Amazon, and Criteo pay Eyeo 30% of the additional revenue created by having their ads unblocked.

Ben Williams, Eyeo's communications and operations manager, sent Business Insider a statement responding to Whittingdale's attack on the ad blocking industry. The company said that while it "might not share all the same beliefs" outlined in the speech, it welcomes the call for cross-industry cooperation to resolve the digital advertising industry's challenges.

Whittingdale said in the speech he plans to set up a round table consisting of publishers, social media firms, and ad blocking companies to resolve the challenges presented by ad blocking - a trend he described as an existential threat: "Quite simply, if people don't pay in some way for content, then that content will eventually no longer exist."

A study released earlier this week by UK trade organization the Internet Advertising Bureau, which was conducted by research company YouGov, found 22% of British adults are currently using ad blockers, up from 18% in October 2015.

Here's Eyeo's statement in response to John Whittingdale's Oxford Media Convention speech in full:

In a recent speech at the Oxford Media Convention, the Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, outlined his views on the rise of ad blocking technologies and the impact on the newspaper and music industries. While we might not share all the same beliefs seen in the statement, one thing we are in complete agreement with is the need for cooperation in order to resolve the challenges within advertising - not just between advertisers, publishers, and ad blockers but also consumers as well.

Ad blocking is a consumer reaction expressing unambiguous disapproval of online advertising, which grew from a hobby project in 2006 to the phenomenon it is today. As ads have become more intrusive, increasing amounts of consumers have opted in to ad blocking. A testament to this can be seen from figures by the IAB and YouGov, which show that usage of ad blockers amongst British adults has risen from 18 per cent to 22 per cent since October 2015, and we only expect this figure to rise further.

Without ad blockers and other tools end-users would have precisely zero power over their experience on the web, online security threats (in ads these are called "malvertising" - and they are vicious) or their own privacy.

Beyond being essential for user control, ad blockers are paving the way to better ad formats. When even the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the industry's leading lobbyist, admit that they have "messed up," it's clear that the industry needs to improve. So while it empowers consumers daily, ad blocking is also making greater strides to driving a better advertising industry. We were the first ad blocker to allow advertisements through if they meet specific standards designed to better the consumer's online experience; now others have implemented the idea.

This idea is far from perfect - indeed, in an effort to improve it, we will soon hand over control to an independent board - but it is moving in the pro-user direction of compromise. Ad blocking software empowers users to have a better online experience and also opens the doors for greater innovation amongst publishers and advertisers, creating more unique forms of monetisation for better-funded journalism, and ultimately bettering the industry. In order to achieve this we agree that communication is key and would be happy to engage in any discussions as to how we can continue to better the consumer's online experience.

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