YouTube is reportedly testing a new ad blocking policy: if you're blocking, prepare to be blocked.
Screenshots shared on Reddit show what YouTube says is a "small experiment globally". If you browse the site with an ad blocker installed, YouTube displays a pop-up message that says “video player will be blocked after 3 videos”.
The message continues: “It looks like you may be using an ad blocker. Video playback will be blocked unless YouTube is allowlisted or the ad blocker is disabled. Ads allow YouTube to stay free for billions of users worldwide. You can go ad-free with YouTube Premium, and creators can still get paid from your subscription.”
This isn’t a new approach: I’ve seen it on all kinds of media sites. But it’s new for YouTube, and while I think it’s fair enough for a free site to ask you to switch your ad-blocker off there’s a bit in the report that worries me.
What is an “extreme case” of adblocking?
Speaking to Bleepingcomputer.com, YouTube says that “In extreme cases, where viewers continue their use of ad blockers, playback will be temporarily disabled. We take disabling playback very seriously, and will only disable playback if viewers ignore repeated requests to allow ads on YouTube”.
I’m worried about this, because I’ve fallen foul of website security measures that were intended to block bad actors before. Today I’ve been locked out of the presale for Foo Fighters tickets by Ticketmaster, something that also happened with their Taylor Swift pre-registration, because their anti-bot system wrongly tags my IP address as dodgy. I don’t know if it’s because I’m in a block of flats with multiple IP addresses or if my internet provider has previously been used by bot farms, but that doesn’t really matter: I’m banned and Ticketmaster is too big to care or respond to any of my queries. No Foos for me.
That’s what worries me here, because Google’s anti-ad blocker system is of course going to be automated. When you’re operating at the scale of YouTube even a small percentage of false positives is going to affect an awful lot of people, and when you’re operating at the scale of YouTube it’s going to be very difficult for those people to get your attention.
But as Google says, this is an experiment. I hope it encourages them to think about false positives and how to avoid them.