UK Police Target Advertising On Infringing Sites, Opens Door For Scammers And Malware Purveyors
from the replacing-bad-ads-with-foul-software dept
No good deed by government agencies goes unpunished it seems, although it appears the average citizen bears the brunt of these punishments nearly every time. The UK’s long-running battle with porn and infringement recently combined to the detriment of computer users across the country.
City of London Police are claiming credit for the suspension of 40 ad-funded websites that provided unauthorised access to copyright-protected content – but may have caused a rise in the number of web ads carrying malware or promoting pornography.
Operation Creative has resulted in the suspension of 40 national and international websites by domain name registrars during a three month pilot. The campaign was led by the new Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in collaboration with the creative industry, as represented by FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft), the BPI (British Phonographic Industry), IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) and The Publishers Association.
That’s the upside. Dozens of infringing sites suspended and pleased industry execs smiling warmly at the results of their latest attempt to drain the web of infringement using a handful of thimbles.
The suspensions and extra public attention resulted in a 12% drop in advertising from major brands. But, when you create a hole on the internet, something will rush in and fill it.
[A]dverts that led users to sites with explicit adult content or exposed them to malware increased by 39 per cent during the same period…
Almost half (46 per cent) of total ads served to the sites were for unknown or unidentified brands which invited users to click through, often to fraudulent scams.
While infringement may have been dented, the rise in fraudulent activity more than made up for it. And what didn’t lead to infected computers led to sites the government is actively discouraging people from visiting with its mandatory porn filtering.
This, of course, was pitched by the masters of the inadvertent disasters as a good thing:
Police put a positive spin on this development, arguing that switching to shadier sources of advertising is unsustainable and that “site owners may struggle to maintain their revenue streams when adverts from established brands are removed”.
In all reality, relying solely on low quality web ads isn’t really a “business model.” What the City of London police have done is slow a trickle of income to a halt and allowed those with shadier (but more lucrative) “business models” to fill the void with malware infections and scams.
BPI’s statement on the takedowns seems to imply that this activity has made the web safer, despite evidence gathered to the contrary.
Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, said: “The early results from Operation Creative show that through working with the police and the online advertising industry, we can begin to disrupt the funding that sustains illegal websites. These sites expose consumers to scams and malware, deny creators their living, and harm brands by associating them with illegal and unsafe content.”
Right. Except that disrupting the sites has led to even more malware and scammy behavior. This may be a small win for BPI and its cohorts, but the consumers aren’t being protected in any way. But I suppose that’s a small price (for someone else) to pay when fighting infringement. If someone looking for illicit content ends up with an infected computer, it’s no one’s fault but their own, right?
I’m not suggesting the rights holders are actively working to make the web less safe, but that seems to be the end result, intended or not. Maybe the City of London police will throw a little of its investigative muscle into shutting those operators down, rather than just running interference for the copyright industry. Or maybe it will just continue to “enforce” the law by skirting ICANN policies as it has in the past with its highly-questionable domain takedowns that were backed with threats to hold registrars responsible for the alleged infringement happening on the disabled sites.