“Considering the contention and misinformation that’s out there, I think it was a good first step by the Adblock Plus team to just get people at the table,” said Craig Spiezle, president of the Online Trust Alliance and one of the representatives at the meeting. “I hope they took away from this how complex the process and mechanisms need to be, because the Acceptable Ads criteria has lacked that objectivity and nuance.”
Much of last week’s discussion revolved just around how to structure and frame the new group (Will it be a board or a committee? Who “owns” it? Is it a nonprofit?), with the nitty-gritty details left undetermined.
The ownership of the board hadn’t even been a consideration for ABP, according to a blog post from ABP operations and communications manager Ben Williams. He noted the benefits: “[H]aving an independent legal structure allows a working group to maintain its independence and integrity even if the original group that formed it should dissolve.”
It could also help with more mundane, logistical issues. Though Spiezle, who runs a nonprofit, said “they shouldn’t underestimate the overhead and costs of managing a nonprofit – the minutes, the insurance policies, the employees.”
Dave Carroll, a professor at the New School who attended the discussion, said ABP did little to indicate how it would address the functional, bureaucratic difficulties of forming a nonprofit or benefit-corporation structure “that would resolve its obvious conflicts of interests.”
Spiezle and off-the-record attendees all described it as a positive step – if even just to get the varied parties in a room for conversation. The pleasantries dispensed with, what remains is an immense uphill battle in order to have a truly independent, industrywide solution.
“Pulling together a multi-stakeholder arbitration process – call it whatever you like – is immensely difficult,” said Spiezle. “Give them credit, because it was the first time you had people across the industry together frankly accepting responsibility for their share of the problem … but it’s an indication of how hard it will be to maneuver the interests represented here.”