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article imageUK mobile operator Three to block online adverts automatically

By James Walker     Feb 19, 2016 in Technology
UK mobile operator Three is to begin automatically blocking all adverts on mobile websites across Three UK and Three Italy. The controversial move aims to give customers "more control, choice and transparency" but is concerning to publishers.
It's no secret that advertising revenue is the primary income source for the majority of websites, content creators and publishers online. Having one of the UK's largest mobile networks start hiding those adverts automatically isn't going to go unnoticed amongst publishers.
Three is siding with the concerns of consumers, many of whom are frequently annoyed by slow-loading, invasive adverts that can overlay or obscure content on mobile websites. The company said "Irrelevant and excessive mobile ads annoy customers and affect their overall network experience."
The Guardian reports that Three UK chief marketing officer Tom Malleschitz sees three key reasons to block ads: Three's customers aren't paying to watch ads in the first place and therefore shouldn't have to use their data allowance to load them; adverts have a reputation for secretly tracking users and collecting personal data; and customers should be able to block intrusive advertising that isn't relevant to their interests.
Three has now signed a deal with Israeli ad-block firm Shine that will see a network-level ad block deployed across its 4G data services. It won't operate indiscriminately, instead doing its best to only remove "excessive, intrusive and irrelevant" ads, giving control to the user.
Publishers aren't happy, however. Three appears to be doing too much too early as many sites currently aren't prepared for an ad-free future. The Internet is beginning to look in that direction but so far few sites have yet to try new revenue models.
The Guardian reports that Alex Kozloff, acting marketing and communications director for the UK's Internet Advertising Bureau, warned: "The IAB believes that an ad funded internet is essential in providing revenue to publishers so they can continue to make their content, services and applications widely available at little, or no cost. We believe adblocking undermines this approach and could mean consumers have to pay for content they currently get for free."
Three may also be subject to net neutrality legislation that stipulates data flowing across networks should be treated equally. Automatically blocking adverts that a server has specified should be displayed may violate this principle, making the whole venture illegal.
Three hasn't yet revealed details of how the ad blocking will be enforced. It said it is keen to work with the advertising community to improve online ads and "deliver a better, more targeted and more transparent mobile ad experience to customers." This raises the prospect of a "whitelist" of approved ad providers being compiled, allowing websites to keep displaying "safe" adverts.
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