E.U. Proposes Digital Publishers Can Punish Visitors Using Ad Blockers – Forbes

In a significant victory for online publishers struggling to find and maintain revenues, the European Union is proposing that publishers can deny content to visitors who refuse to switch off their ad blockers.

Last week, the E.U. waded into the ongoing dispute between publishers and electronic privacy groups by proposing a reform that, while ensuring users “the freedom to install software on their devices that disables the display of advertisement,” would nevertheless permit websites to detect a visitor’s ability to receive all their content – including ads.

Herein lies the win for publishers: Detecting – “without obtaining the end-user’s consent” – that not all content is being displayed on the device, the website then has the freedom “to respond appropriately, for example by asking end-users if they use an ad-blocker and would be willing to switch it off for the respective website.”

In short, publishers could legally prohibit ad blockers, as a number of major publishers do now – among them the German tabloid Bild.de, where visitors with adblockers slam into this message: “With Adblocker enabled you can no longer visit BILD.de.”

Bild warning

The notification to Bild.de visitors, warning them to turn off ad blocking in order to access the site  Image: Bild.de

While the E.U. has been in the forefront of protecting users’ privacy – and the new regulation focuses specifically on “stronger privacy rules for electronic communications” in Europe’s digital single market – publishers were encouraged by the European Commission’s recognition that ” ‘free’ content on the internet is often funded by advertisement revenue.”

The commission acknowledged that while some privacy advocates would be riled by the proposal, “legal clarity is needed,” according to Andrus Ansip, Vice President for the E.U.’s Digital Single Market.

He acknowledged to the Financial Times that such critics are “people who want free access and couldn’t care (about) editorial costs.”


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