back to article ASA: Publishers must vet AdSense ads

Publishers must take responsibility for the suitability of published adverts, even if the ads are chosen by an automated system like Google's AdSense, the advertising regulator has said. Many online publishers use AdSense or Yahoo!'s Publisher Network to associate adverts with keywords contained in articles. Such systems can …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rock and Hard place

    If you do take responsibility for checking the Ad google gets all uppity and accuses people of 'Click Fraud' if you don't then you get done for inappropriate ads, hmmm a lose lose scenario.

    Right, well all I want to know is who is going to pay to get all the ad code removed from the pages :)

    You cannot make money from advertising online, unless you get people to advertise directly through you for a fixed amount, (no middle man - looking at you google).

    To think you can make money online via advertising using the affiliate schemes is a myth.

    If this little announcement is true, it is now a liability to include advertising on a site.

    Blimey, it is just like Rockefeller hatred; wait till they get to the top and them stone them down - but this time it is Google :)

  2. Stuart Silver badge

    Whose interest are they protecting?

    Most UK publishers of GoogleAds are probably community based sites. That is they do not have employed people to watch and vet each and every one of the millions of pages they publish for the benefit of the community.

    So ASS (whoops) want us to stop taking ads or vet them. That means losing that resource. Why? because of an Ad that some oversensitive soul found in the Guardian?

    This smells of keeping the Ad world in business, for business.

  3. David Gosnell

    All very well...

    ... but Google specifically forbid any manipulation of their AdSense code, which would presumably include any filtering.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bad Peter Bad!

    Another punish Peter for the mistake of Paul?

    Googles adsense is done in frames, the advert is a frame in the page of the publisher. This is the same frame system Google itself uses on the images search or translation service or cache. The ASA's choices here would make Google liable for every website in that frame, since it is no different from one website embedding another. Yet it's not their site, it's a frame that embeds someone else's site.

    Then there's the advertising problem, the content of the ad is decided by the advertiser not the publisher. Yet you want to make the publisher responsible even when they have no control over it? Why? Because they're an easier target to punish?

    I have an idea, since we're saying it's OK to punish Peter for Pauls mistake, how about this as the fix. Whenever someone complains about something on the web, whether it's an advert or a site on how to commit suicide. One of those batty Blairbabes pulls out the ID number of a random British person, and they get punished instead.

    It doesn't matter which, just as long as it's a British person who is an easy target to punish. Let no crime go unpunished, as Blair put it,.... more important to find a scapegoat than fix the problem.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Bad Peter Bad!


    "Then there's the advertising problem, the content of the ad is decided by the advertiser not the publisher. Yet you want to make the publisher responsible even when they have no control over it? Why? Because they're an easier target to punish?"

    The point is that the technology shouldn't be an excuse. It is the publisher that publishes, by definition. The current technology often removes control from the publisher. This is not an inevitable, universal constant, but a business decision. It is possible to produce an advert management system based on explicit approval. Just because it's more expensive doesn't mean it's bad. It is more expensive to fix dangerous floors, electrical wiring and plumbing than it is not to, but we still mandate that this is done in all public spaces.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well then...

    I guess that's it for google ads in the UK then. Seriously- the ASA are looking like feeble-minded luddites here.

  7. Adrian

    The buck has to stop somewhere

    It really is about time *someone* was held accountable for Internet advertising.

    The buck-passing can be quite phenomenal (Website owner - content provider - advertising provider - advertising consolidator - advert creator - product marketer/malware writer ...) but to my mind the simple approach offers the best way of stopping both badly placed and malicious ads. The website owner has the final say on what appears "in their name" or alongside their "brand" so they take the publicity hit for bad ads and should also face penalties for any damages caused.

    A magazine publisher, a radio network, a TV channel knows, and is responsible for, the source of their adverts. I see no reason why a legitimate website owner should not be able to identify exactly where each advert has come from and so, if they faced something like legal action, could call the advertising agent to account.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    How would this affect Phorm? I know that website owners subscribe to phorm and probably have controls in place to limit this sort of thing, but seeing as phorm manipulate the pages, I would suggest that this implies taking ownership of the new page and thus (hopefully) puts Phorm in a bit of legal doo-dah

  9. RW

    Bad Taste Police?

    What is it with a government that is concerned with bad taste? How utterly silly!

    Does this mean that badly dressed drag queens are next on the social purification agenda? "You there, you have a rip in your fishnet stockings, go to jail, go directly to jail and do not collect £100."

    This objection also applies to the repeated reports of personal liberty being curbed in Britain "because somebody might be offended." Esp. when such curbs are the result of one delicate snowflake complaining while, clearly, no one else gives a damn.

    Ads, pottery pigs in windows, Christmas decorations, and God knows what else. Doesn't HM Gov have anything better to do with its time? What was the phrase one of the newspapers used yesterday, something like "NuLabour's micro-interventions?"

    It's all very well for advertisements to be regulated wrt being truthful, not misleading, and so on, but "suitable"? Good lord, Charlie Brown.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @The point is that the technology shouldn't be an excuse

    "The point is that the technology shouldn't be an excuse. It is the publisher that publishes, by definition."

    Pretending the web is a newspaper doesn't make it so. A newspaper *does* get to see and choose and place an ad, a web publisher does not.

    They don't need an excuse, ASA needs to quit trying to treat disparate media as though they are the same thing. I know it makes ASA job easier, but they are there to regulate advertising, advertising isn't there to give ASA a job.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    Wait... Pottery pigs in windows? I must have missed that one... do tell!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ASA powerless busybody

    Well we can relax.

    Researching this, the ASA is a self appointed body. It's using a law "Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations" as "it's" power, although it's not really a power it's a law that anyone can use and that's what they're doing.

    I can't find any law that gives them the power to regulate morality or taste, that seems to be really just them bluffing.

    Good grief how many of these self appointed plastic police organizations does the UK have? There should be a law against pretending you have authority you don't possess :) . I've seen plastic policemen pretend photography in public places is a crime, I've seen RSPCA inspectors pretending to be policemen by reading people their caution rights.... and on and on.

    It's like there's a million little charities, bodies, busy bodies, and scam artists pretending to have powers they don't have.

  13. Pierre

    What about malware ads?

    You know, the kind of banner adsthat trigger nasty code which wants to reduce your browser window and display a pop-up reading "your computer is infected, do you want to scan it for free now?" stuff... There have been more and more of those lately, should the publisher be held responsible? I keep firing e-mail to the affected websites each time I come across one, but none action was taken so far, so I should maybe point this out...

  14. Chris C


    Is this really such a difficult concept for the majority of the commenters here to understand? As a web publisher, you have COMPLETE AND TOTAL CONTROL over your own website (unless you've been hacked). The fact that you CHOOSE to use an advertising engine which does not give you advance notice of which advertisement will be shown in a specific location at a specific time does not change that. You still have COMPLETE control over your own web site.

    There's a simple solution -- if you don't like the rule, stop displaying adverts (or at least stop using the ad engines in question). "Waaah! But my advertising revenue! Waaaaah!" Cry me a river. There is nothing that says you can do whatever you want with impunity, and there is no god- or government-given right to host a web page. If you find that you cannot host a web page without violating any laws, then again, there's a simple solution -- don't host the web page. It really is just that simple.

    As for "Whose interest are they protecting", are you actually suggesting there should be different laws for commercial entities and non-commercial entities?

    Most (all?) advertising engines do not give you advance notice of what ad will be served when. But that doesn't mean that's the way it needs to be, nor does it indicate that that's the way it should be. There was once a time when all computer data was unencrypted, too, but we've moved away from that.

    Oh, and as for "Pretending the web is a newspaper doesn't make it so. A newspaper *does* get to see and choose and place an ad, a web publisher does not.", THEY'RE EXACTLY THE SAME THING!! Just because you, as a web publisher, CHOOSE to not view each advertisement that is displayed on your website (and a newspaper does choose to view each advertisement that is displayed in its pages) doesn't change that fact. It's people like you that are trying to twist the system because you find operating within the confines of the law uncomfortable or inconvenient.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Adsense / Google Ad censorship.

    Another aspect of the advertising industry is that they sometimes withdraw advertising revenue from a site because they have decided that the site's content might damage their customer's revenue, examples of which have been reported in The Register in the last couple of months.

    Clearly the Ad industry is ready and willing to decide what sites are appropriate to advertise on, perhaps then it is reasonable that they should be expected to decide what adverts are appropriate for what sites.

    Frankly I'd like to see regulations preventing this kind of arbitrary censorship by attrition. If we allow it to continue then the content of the web will be dictated by the biggest pockets.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Buck stopping and who is the publisher

    technically the browser is the publisher and the browser is there by the user's request so the buck stops at the user.

    If you are going to allow your browser to show you offensive ads that you have published yourself by using a browser then you only have yourself to blame.

    See, the website owner doesn't have the final say, the user does, you can modify anything you like once it enters your systems.

    So technically those at work who view naughty things should blame the final publisher namely their work place. The net is not like ink and paper, the same rules don't apply - the parallel breaks down quite early on, the whole experience is quite interactive with the ability to influence the stream prior to human cognizant of the information.

  17. DZ-Jay

    Re: Idiots

    Bravo! I couldn't have said it better myself. I also can't comprehend how this is such an alien concept to others: The limitations of technological solutions are intrinsic to the solution itself, and therefore known before hand.

    When a publisher chooses an advertising delivery system which is mostly autonomous, he is consciously surrendering control of the advert selection to such system. As Chris C. said, they could decline such system and have a human make the advert selection, or they could build their own system that would prevent such misalignments as discussed in the article. The fact that these alternatives are more expensive or difficult is not an excuse to chose a system that violates laws or policies.

    The publisher must understand that he still has liability for all the content he publishes--regardless of who is making the decisions, be it his editor, account manager, or yes, even a machine.


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