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.