TAG Anti-fraud Certification Will Require Publishers to Implement Ads.txt

Expanded Anti-Piracy Program Provides First Path to Certification for Ad Buyers, Publishers

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), an advertising industry initiative to fight criminal activity in the digital advertising supply chain, today released updated certification guidelines for its Certified Against Fraud and Certified Against Piracy Seal Programs.

The updated Certified Against Fraud Guidelines now require publishers to adopt and implement the ads.txt specification released by the IAB Tech Lab last May, while the updated Certified Against Piracy Guidelines offer the first opportunity for direct buyers and publishers to be awarded TAG’s Certified Against Piracy seal. In addition, TAG unveiled a new enforcement process for all of its certification programs that enables individuals and entities to submit allegations of non-compliance for review and potential action by TAG.

Mike Zaneis
Mike Zaneis

“As an industry-led initiative, TAG continuously adapts our programs and requirements to incorporate new best practices, block evolving criminal attacks, and meet the needs of our dynamically changing marketplace,” said Mike Zaneis, CEO of TAG. “These new guidelines put teeth in the ads.txt initiative by requiring publishers to adopt it in order to receive TAG’s Certified Against Fraud Seal, and they move the ad buying and publisher communities from support to action in the fight against ad-supported piracy by giving each a simple path to certification.”

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Ads.txt is an initiative designed to increase transparency around programmatic advertising by allowing publishers and distributors to publicly state which companies they have authorized to sell ads on their sites or via their inventory. According to the IAB Tech Lab, “participating publishers must post their list of authorized sellers to their domain. Programmatic buyers can then crawl the web for publisher ads.txt files to create a list of authorized sellers for each participating publisher. Then programmatic buyers can create a filter to match their ads.txt list against the data provided in the OpenRTB bid request.”

To obtain TAG’s Certified Against Piracy Seal, ad buyers and publishers must meet the following requirements:

  • Direct buyers must complete TAG Registration, be a TAG member in good standing, have a designated TAG compliance officer, attend annual anti-piracy training, comply with and fully operationalize TAG’s Anti-Piracy Pledge, and employ pirate mobile app filtering for all advertising displayed in a mobile app environment.
  • Publishers must also meet the TAG Registration, good standing, compliance officer, and training requirements, as well as ensuring that their properties do not block or unduly restrict the use of anti-piracy software. Additional requirements differ depending on the degree to which publishers host user-generated content (UGC), including attestations regarding whether a publisher owns or licenses the rights to all content on owned and/or operated media properties, and addressing whether a publisher employs commercially available means to ensure that it does not host nor stream infringing content.

The new requirements will go into effect and be subject to TAG enforcement on July 1, 2018.  Companies that currently hold the Certified Against Fraud and/or Certified Against Piracy Seals must come into compliance by that time, while new applicants for those certifications will be evaluated against the updated guidelines going forward.

Independent studies have recently validated the effectiveness of TAG’s Certified Against Fraud and Certified Against Piracy Programs in fighting those criminal activities. A December 2017 study from the 614 Group found the use of TAG Certified distribution channels reduced fraud by more than 83 percent from broader industry averages, while a separate October 2017 study conducted by Ernst & Young LLP found that the anti-piracy steps taken by the industry have reduced revenue for pirate sites by between 48 and 61 percent. (Both studies were commissioned by TAG.)

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) is the leading global certification program fighting criminal activity and increasing trust in the digital advertising industry. Created by the industry’s top trade organizations, TAG’s mission is to eliminate fraudulent traffic, combat malware, prevent Internet piracy, and promote greater transparency in digital advertising. TAG advances those initiatives by bringing companies across the digital advertising supply chain together to set the highest standards. TAG is the first and only registered Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (ISAO) for the digital advertising industry.

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