Google, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, and the Interactive Advertising Bureau are joining forces to keep Web surfers safe from ads that serve up malware or scams.
The companies will announce tomorrow the formation of the Ads Integrity Alliance, which will be led by Maxim Weinstein, executive director of StopBadware, a nonprofit focused on protecting consumers from sites that lead to viruses, spyware and other malware.
The charter members will share information about scams and malware in advertising and develop policy recommendations and best practices, Weinstein said. "Having formal channels for sharing information about specific threats, trends and bad actors can be a valuable weapon" in stopping criminals and scammers as they move their campaigns to different sites on the Web, he said.
Ad serving systems are built to serve millions of targeted ads on Web sites in a scalable way, which makes it difficult to catch every bad ad before it hits the Net, according to Weinstein. "When you have really large scale automated systems and you also have a criminal element that wants to take advantage of that to deliver malware and commit fraud you need to find ways to balance the need for efficiency and automation with the need to protect users from bad ads," he said. "That has to include some combination of automation and human intervention."
"All complex ecosystems have parasites," said Eric Davis, global public policy manager at Google. "No individual company or law enforcement agency can singlehandedly stop all the bad actors from the entire Web and we think it's important to work with other companies, other parties and organizations, to share the information we can."
Last year, Google disabled more than 130 million ads and 800,000 advertisers that violated policies on its sites and those of its partners' sites, Davis wrote in a post on the Google Official blog.
Asked who came up with the idea, Weinstein said it began with informal conversations between individuals at some of the charter members, who then approached StopBadware.
Notably absent from the group is Microsoft and Yahoo. Weinstein said he hopes those companies will be members in the future as the alliance expands. "We decided to try to move fairly quickly on pulling [the Alliance] together and get something up and launched," he said.
Updated 11:30 p.m. PT with stats on Google disabling ads last year, from a Google blog.