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More must be done to remove legitimate ads from illegal websites

Ad networks, global brands and players across the online advertising industry need to take concrete steps to ensure their ads are not appearing on illegal websites in Asia, delegates at a conference heard yesterday.

The findings from a study were revealed at “Making Online Advertising Click”, a conference held as part of the annual CASBAA Convention.

The session focused on the legal and safety issues facing the internet today and how brands can inadvertently be associated with online crime.

The study released by Dr Paul Watters of New Zealand’s Massey University showed a selection of online ad networks that have been placing ads on the top piracy sites across the region – along with ads for pornography, malware and illegal gambling.

A broad range of legitimate industries from banks to food suppliers, fashion retailers, oil companies and airlines hosted ads on illegal websites and the study aims to highlight which networks were responsible for placing the ads.

“Given the attention to this issue in other parts of the world, we have been surprised to find major Asian advertising networks continuing to place ads on rogue sites,” he commented.

“It seems to be a much bigger problem in Asia.”

John Medeiros, chief policy officer at CASBAA, said brands can often appear on illegal sites without their knowledge.

“Which not only damages their reputation but brings them perilously close to criminal networks online,” he said.

John Montgomery, chairman of GroupM Connect North America, added that the practice was eroding confidence in the digital channel.

He said the same ad networks are “perpetrating piracy, spreading malware, stealing users identities and launching “botnets” to defraud advertisers through fake clicks.

“All of what is being discussed is linked. It’s the whole evil thread that runs through the net.”

Detective chief superintendent David Clark from the City of London Police discussed the formation of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and its work to develop an Infringing Website List that helps advertisers and agencies differentiate between legal and illegal internet content sites.

He hinted that a similar list in Asia could help to combat illegal websites.

“Illegal sites are placed on the list by the police, which is made available to brands and online advertising networks who have pledged not to advertise on these sites,” he said.

“It is an ongoing process. With new internet sites springing up all the time, it is a challenge to keep the list of illegal sites current and updated. However, we see this as imperative, not only to protect brands’ integrity, but, more importantly, to prevent the public’s exposure to risk when interacting with illegal sites.”

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