Senator Ron Wyden asks FTC to investigate pay-for-play ad blocking whitelisting

Wyden suggests its anti-competitive.


Today, Senator Ron Wyden, one of the best-known technology critics, has made a request addressed to the Federal Trade Commission to begin an investigation into ad-blocking applications industry for practicing anti-competitive behaviors.

Not all ads are the same

Have you ever wondered why if you have Ad-Block installed, you still sometimes see ads? The reality is that some renowned technology firms have paid large amounts of money to brands such as Eyeo (owner of Adblock Plus) to avoid all the restrictions from ad-blocking software.

In fact, it is known thanks to a Financial Times report made in 2015, that companies such as Google, Amazon and even Microsoft are on the list of those who at some point have signed agreements to be exempt from these blockages.

For Senator Wyden, these practices are not ethical as users do not know them. In a letter addressed to the Federal Trade Commission, he asks Chairman Joseph Simon to initiate an investigation against this industry. Its intention is to reveal all the companies that have paid to belong to the so-called “whitelists” of the ad blockers so that those who download this software know that they will continue to see ads from those companies.

An unethical practice

Wyden cited an Adblock Plus statement made in 2016, in which they claimed that they accepted some ads that were not considered “intrusive or annoying,” and that the companies in charge of such advertisements would enter the whitelist. However, for the senator, this is an “anticompetitive” behavior by favoring certain companies for being “less intrusive” than others.

For Wyden, the fact that hundreds of millions of users have downloaded these programs in the hope of not seeing more ads, while large companies are making hidden deals so that the programs lose effectiveness, is an unfair deal with those who download the blockers.

According to a special note, the Federal Trade Commission has successfully received the senator's petition. Most likely, the demands will be met, since, in the past, the FTC has designated a large amount of resources to investigate the problems of unfair competition in the technology sector.


Fabrizio Bulleri
Fabrizio Bulleri is a tech reporter with several years of experience covering the Asian tech market. He likes traveling and keeping up with everything digital-related. [email protected]