China Bans Ad Blocking, And Adblock Plus Cries Foul

greatwallimgWhen China released its first set of digital ad regulations two weeks ago, the impact on search was heavily discussed – and understandably so, since it impacted Chinese market leaders like Baidu and Alibaba.

“But hidden among (the new regulations) is language that would seem to all but ban ad blocking,” wrote Adblock Plus (ABP) operations manager Ben Williams in a blog post Wednesday.

The new regulations prohibit “the use of network access, network devices, applications, and the disruption of normal advertising data, tampering with or blocking others doing advertising business (or) unauthorized loading the ad.” (according to Google ’s page translation)

Another clause addresses tech companies that “intercept, filter, cover, fast-forward and [impose] other restrictions” on online ad campaigns.

The Chinese State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), which issued and enforces the regulations, is akin to the American Federal Communications Commission. The regulator operates through governmental proceedings instead of courts and levies fines against offending companies, but the SAIC has much more control over the market than the FCC, said ABP general counsel Kai Recke in an email to AdExchanger.

“After all it looks like the Chinese government tries to get advertising more under their control and that includes that they want to be the only ones to be allowed to remove or alter ads,” said Recke.

ABP suffered a minor legal setback against Axel Springer last month, but it’s won all the cases in Germany that have questioned the legitimacy of its business model. To date, every other country and relevant corporate platforms like Apple and Google have endorsed ad blocking.

ABP often faces tough questions about its Acceptable Ads initiative, under which large publishers such as Google pay for an ad blocking exemption.

“Ad-block users are a distinct audience … and they require a distinct strategy and ways to engage them,” said ABP CEO Till Faida at AdExchanger’s Clean Ads I/O earlier this year. “They have different standards they’ve expressed for accessing them, and advertising has to reflect that.”

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