City Police plans to create register of illegal websites in major crackdown

The UK ad industry is awaiting the release of a 100-strong register of copyright-infringing websites expected to be compiled by the City of London Police as part of a crackdown on illegal sites and the revenues they generate.

The Drum understands the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) is working with copyright infringement bodies including the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) to collate a list of illegal sites, expected to be completed early next year.

Industry bodies including the IPA, ISBA, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG) are eagerly awaiting the list, which could help improve the digital advertising industry’s ability to police ad misplacement.

The move is aimed at clamping down on the amount of ad revenue generated by illegal sites, while safeguarding advertisers from inadvertently appearing on such sites. The IPA and other trade bodies can then use the register as a resource to which they can direct advertisers’ attention.

The Drum understands that the process is in its early stages but once such a register is released agencies can choose to boycott the sites listed.

Pete Robins, chair of the IPA Digital Action Group, and partner at Agenda 21 said the creation of the register will mark a “massive step forward” for the UK ad industry, which will help buyers and sellers of inventory to better police ad placements in general.

Media agency groups already operate their own ABC-audited content verification tools and other methods of policing ad placements, but this will mark the first official, centralised list that all involved in the buying and selling of inventory can plug into.

“The aim of the DTSG is to help minimise ad misplacement, whether it is on an illegal site or a case of a brand appearing on a site it doesn’t want to, that’s not appropriate to its brand. As an industry we must all work to minimise the places the police have deemed illegal. People can then block those on the list. It means those on the buying and selling side can be checking that and policing it – it’s a major step forward,” said Robins.

Discussions are underway within the DTSG regarding how it can react once the register is available, he added.

Nigel Gwilliam, digital consultant to the IPA, said, “The IPA takes advertising misplacement very seriously. Along with other ad industry bodies, we have had constructive meetings with rights holder groups and should a register of infringing sites, compiled under the auspices of the City of London’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, become available we have committed to signposting this register to our member agencies.”

FACT’s head of communications Eddy Leviten said, “FACT has been engaging with some of the UK’s biggest brands (190 to date this year) to assist them in ensuring their ads do not appear against unsuitable content and we are getting some excellent responses. We are also working with the online ad industry as a whole to assist the sector in delivering one of Ed Vaizey’s objectives – reducing the flow of income to criminal websites that promote pirated material and thus helping protect the livelihoods of nearly 2 million people working in the UK’s creative industries.”

The rise of agency trading desks, demand side platforms, ad exchanges, supply side platforms and real-time operators in the last few years has resulted in an increasingly complex, sophisticated digital advertising ecosystem in which ad misplacement is still an issue, and brands can inadvertently appear on either illegal sites or sites that are not illegal but are seen as inappropriate to their brand.

The UK digital advertising industry has addressed this with the establishment of the Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG), facilitated by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), which encompasses all organisations involved in the digital ad trading ecosystem.

Alex Tait, chair of ISBA’s Digital, Direct and Data Action Group, said, “The online display market has become increasingly complex and as such the whole market had evolved beyond IASH, which had been set up in 2005, when the ecosystem was not as multifaceted.

“Over the last 12 months ISBA has worked closely with Rights Holder groups and we look forward to a register of infringing sites, compiled under the auspices of the City of London’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, being established. Should this come to pass ISBA will signpost this register to our members.”

Meanwhile ABC’s group executive director, communication and innovation Richard Foan said, “With digital advertising on the increase, our industry wants to ensure brand safety. To facilitate this our industry continues to look at best practice principles for digital ad trading. We are aware of the development of a register and await further developments. As a point of principle ABC will not be involved in the creation or administration of any such list.”

IAB’s senior public affairs executive Alex Scott said, “The IAB is committed to promoting good practice in ad trading. We will continue to engage with government and other relevant stakeholders to this end.”

The NFIB was unavailable to comment by the time of this article’s publication.

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