Acceptable Ads and the role of the facilitator

Acceptable Ads and the role of the facilitator

Acceptable Ads, Matthew Garcia, 30. March 2020

Anyone familiar with eyeo products, such as Adblock Plus, Adblock Browser for mobile, or Flattr has come across mentions of Acceptable Ads. And why? Because it’s an important part of the online ecosystem as we see it. For us, ‘fixing’ the web, and promoting a sustainable online future is about fairness and respect for all sides of the equation. And that means, along with fighting for users and user control, we also believe that good content cannot simply appear out of thin air. Websites and creators work hard to give us all the things we want and need online. Those websites monetize through advertising. And when this works, it actually, well, works. The problem is that too often user experience is ignored. That’s what Acceptable Ads is about: how to guarantee a great user experience, while still giving monetization options to the people who create and provide content.

Now, while Acceptable Ads was the brainchild of eyeo founders Wladimir Palant and Till Faida, it was important for eyeo to give up control in creating any Acceptable Ads criteria in order to ensure exactly the kind of fairness we mentioned above. Thus, eyeo decided to limit itself to two functions regarding Acceptable Ads. One is as an ‘enforcer’ of the Standard that is voted on independently by the Acceptable Ads Committee, and two is as the ‘facilitator’ of the AAC. We’d like to take a few minutes in this blog to explain more about what the second of these roles entails. In order to do that, we will first elaborate on what the ‘executor’ role is, and where the role of ‘facilitator’ takes over.

As mentioned above, Acceptable Ads is about great user experience and giving fair monetization opportunities to publishers. This functions by having a Standard, or criteria, that delineates just what types of ads users deem acceptable. If we think of the criteria as laws, and ad blockers as the elements that enforce those laws, ie. filtering out what does not qualify as an Acceptable Ad, then eyeo as the owner of Adblock Plus could not have any say in the definition of said laws; it only upholds them. That’s logical of course. That’s why it’s important to stress that eyeo does not create any criteria. The Acceptable Ads Committee, which is an independent, nonprofit organization, registered as a 501(c)(3) in the United States, votes on and defines those criteria. eyeo, and other participating ad blockers, get the new criteria and then execute the Standard, ie. the above-mentioned ‘executor’ role.

This is the point where we can elucidate what eyeo does as a ‘facilitator’, because while enforcing the Standard, eyeo also then handles all allowlisting services. This is essential to the process, as it allows for the Standard to have an effect. We provide allowlisting for advertisers who comply with the criteria and follow ‘the rules’ voted on by the AAC. 

But that’s not the whole of the facilitator’s responsibilities. eyeo also helps in the general functioning and smooth running of what happens in the AAC. We arrange and support at meetings, which are important for discussing what is needed (as mentioned above), and we make sure representatives and members of the AAC understand the mission, core values, and bylaws. That is, ‘eyeo the Facilitator’ does a lot of dirty work. This all ensures that the AAC has what it needs to do its job well. 

Also, eyeo happily works in external communication for the AAC, promoting it, explaining what decisions are made, and disseminating valuable information. This does not mean speaking for the AAC, whose voice is its own, but rather functioning literally like a PR agency. 

We do not pretend that we have no interest in what goes on within the Acceptable Ads Committee. Obviously, we do. Though, we believe strongly that no decision-making as per the criteria can come from our side. That certain levels of independence and autonomy are crucial. In this way, we thus like to think of ourselves as the facilitator. Plus, that role is enshrined in the AAC’s bylaws. We want to ensure it all works smoothly, and that we can be an effective part of substantial online change for the better, though remembering always to promote fairness and transparency.