TAG Requires Publishers To Use Ads.Txt

The ad industry's Trustworthy Accountability Group will require publishers to implement the anti-fraud tool ads.txt in order to receive a "certified against fraud" seal, the organization said Thursday.

Publishers will have until July 1 to adopt the tool, which aims to prevent advertisers from buying unauthorized inventory programmatically. Publishers that implement ads.txt -- which stands for Authorized Digital Sellers -- post indexes of their authorized sellers; buyers of ad inventory can then use that information to screen out unauthorized sellers.

As of this week, 95,255 sites have implemented ads.txt, according to Pixalate. Among the top 1,000 Alexa-ranked sites overall, penetration is now 22.3%; among the top 1,000 Alexa-ranked sites that support programmatic, penetration has reached 56.9%, Pixalate reports. (The Interactive Advertising Bureau offers a slightly higher total figure: that group says more than 100,000 domains now implement ads.txt.)



"We've been really pleased with the adoption of ads.txt over the last six months," Rachel Nyswander Thomas, TAG's senior vice president of operations and public policy, says. "When good things are happening we think we can put wind behind them by making them enforceable in our codes."

Final specs for the tool were released last May by the IAB's Tech Lab. In late September, Google said its DoubleClick Bid Manager would only buy publishers' inventory from “sources identified as authorized sellers in its ads.txt file when a file is available.”

The Trustworthy Accountability Group, which aims to combat malware, ad fraud and piracy online, also updated its anti-piracy guidelines, which now allow direct buyers and publishers to receive the "certified against piracy" seal.

Direct buyers must be TAG members, attend training, comply with the group's anti-piracy pledge (which requires commercially reasonable steps to avoid having ads appear on piracy sites), and use pirate mobile app filtering. Publishers face additional requirements, some of which depend on the amount of user-generated content they host.

The organization also unveiled a formal process for enforcing its standards. The organization accepts complaints about certified companies. Staff then reviews the complaints and decides whether the companies have complied with TAG's requirements. If they have not, they could face sanctions including the loss of certification.

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