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China To Ban Ad Blockers As Part Of New Regulations For Online Advertising

from the whatever-next? dept

As we noted last week, China continues to find new ways to bring the online world under control. A post on the Adblock Plus blog has spotted yet another sector the Chinese authorities are bringing to heel: Internet advertising. Last week, China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce issued "Interim Measures for Internet advertising" (original in Chinese.) As the Adblock Plus blog post explains, the rules seek to pin down what exactly Internet advertising is, what is allowed, and what isn't:

Among other things the rules seek to target false or misleading online advertising for prescription medicine and tobacco; require government approval to run ads for health products, medical supplies, veterinary medicine and pesticides; necessitate that paid search results be clearly differentiable from organic results; and oblige advertisers to be responsible for the authenticity of their ad content.
That's all sensible stuff. But Article XVI (B) says that the following are prohibited:
the use of Internet services, network devices, applications etc. to disrupt normal advertising data, tampering with or blocking reasonable advertisements from third-party businesses, unauthorized loading of advertisements;
The Adblock Plus post points out that the ban on ad blocking is likely to have a major impact on Chinese users when it comes into force:
There are apparently 159 million people who block ads on their mobile devices in China. Desktop numbers are relatively low by comparison. All of them, though, are going to have a fundamental right snatched from them come September, when their government will take away their right to block ads.
Since it's hard to see the Chinese government really caring too much about the problems that ad-blocking software causes for online publishers, there is presumably another motivation behind this particular move. One possibility is that the Chinese authorities use the tracking capabilities of online ads for surveillance purposes, and the increasing use of ad blockers in China is making that harder. That clearly runs against the current policy of keeping an eye on everything that online users do in China, which is perhaps why the authorities want ad blockers banned in the country, despite the inconvenience and risks for users of doing so.

It remains to be seen how successful the Chinese government will be in stamping out such popular software, or whether this will be another regulation that is largely ignored.

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  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 22 Jul 2016 @ 3:44am

    The more interesting thing would be to see if anyone exploits the rules to distribute malware that does real harm or has other unintended consequences that causes real problems for the Chinese government. With malicious ads being increasingly common, security is one of the larger reasons people are using these things.

    I mean, I wouldn't want to be the person trying to exploit the opportunity even I were that way inclined. But an extra 159+ million people being added to a pool of targets, where the entire pool is barred from defending themselves against you, must be very tempting for certain people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rich Kulawiec, 22 Jul 2016 @ 3:48am

      Re:

      The more interesting thing would be to see if anyone exploits the rules to distribute malware that does real harm or has other unintended consequences that causes real problems for the Chinese government.

      The more interesting thing would be to see if anyone exploits the rules to distribute malware that does real harm or has other unintended consequence that solves real problems for the Chinese government.

      FTFY, noting that the Chinese government doesn't actually give a damn about advertising but does care about having its malware distribution chain disrupted.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 22 Jul 2016 @ 4:37am

        Re: Re:

        Oh, I guarantee the Chinese government will be using their own special tools. But, as with encryption, because you leave doors open for the "good guys" to do "good things", they're also open for others to exploit.

        I'm hoping someone does, in the most embarrassing way possible. It doesn't have to be malicious to the users, it could just be something that embarrasses the authorities there.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daydream, 22 Jul 2016 @ 4:13am

    What about text-only browsers?

    What about people who want to use text-only browsers? Like Lynx?
    Would that be illegal too?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jul 2016 @ 4:41am

    Is it a crime to disable JS?

    Criminal Not Watching state sponsored TV?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sharatan, 22 Jul 2016 @ 5:07am

    But other countries do it!

    Expect advertisers in other countries to use this to press for laws banning adblockers in their countries too. "See? Other countries do it! We need to keep up!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jul 2016 @ 5:19am

    Expect 'black market' use of ad blockers to soar after September in China then.

    Way too many websites are simply unusable without ad blockers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jul 2016 @ 6:06am

    Wait for the technological cascade.

    Software vendors are going to add whatever features they need to add to sell in China, and they will include the same features in products distributed to other markets. It is cheaper to do that, than it is to maintain separate versions.

    Which is to say you can expect the same functionality to be showing up domestically shortly after.

    I don't think it is lost on many at this point that modern advertising techniques are criminally invasive. The fact that the Chinese government is making exposure to them mandatory should be fairly convincing to the holdouts.

    And it is getting a lot more aggressive. I am seeing covert psychological influence techniques in more and more consumer media every day. I'm not sure whether to take it as a sign of desperation on the part of the cabal, or an indicator that the people who work in the pop media industry are getting more psychotic.

    In either case it is becoming clearer that netizens need to take steps to put these people in the Internet equivalent of a padded room.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 22 Jul 2016 @ 9:25am

    It's the economy...stupid!

    Watch these AD's or else.

    I wonder how they are going to control bathroom breaks or trips to the refrigerator?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 22 Jul 2016 @ 10:47am

    dEAR cHINA

    Dear China..
    Politicians..I hope you will be responsible enough to HELP clean up everyone's computers when this is done..

    Dear Citizens..Im sorry that idiots(same as ours) are trying to tell you how to protect your computers..Once your computers are Ridden with Virus and bots, Please send them to your local Political rep..SEE if he can fix it, as they FIXED this law..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 22 Jul 2016 @ 10:48am

      Re: dEAR cHINA

      Can I suggest..
      That this is a GREAT idea..
      because EVERY computer will get a WIPE and re0install every month..or less..
      Do you think ANY hiddenillegal data will be found? NOPE..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Idiot Trump, 22 Jul 2016 @ 5:10pm

    I love China!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Comey's Little Buddy, 23 Jul 2016 @ 9:43am

    Go China!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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