Ad-Blocking Browser Riles Up Newspaper Group

The Newspaper Association of America, joined by some of its largest members, has called on the makers of the web browser Brave to stop removing publishers' ads and replacing them with its own. Brave CEO Brendan Eich argues that his company's approach offers a fair alternative to more invasive advertising.

News publishers are picking a brave fight.

Earlier this month, 17 members of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company behind Brave, a web browser for desktop and mobile devices that offers built-in ad blocking.

Brave says it wants to replace the advertisements with its own ads, which it claims are faster to load, and by stopping trackers and cookies, the browser maker says it is safer than the alternatives. While Brave offers some of the revenue to publishers affected by the replacement ads, that hasn’t stopped complaints about the strategy.

NAA, for one, argues that Brave’s work is “blatantly illegal”—a stance that found support from major newspaper publishers, such as The New York Times Company, The Washington Post, Gannett Co., and Dow Jones & Company. Each joined in on the cease-and-desist letter [PDF] to Brave Software Founder and CEO Brendan Eich.

“Your plan to use our content to sell your advertising is indistinguishable from a plan to steal our content to publish on your own website,” the letter, which represents the interests of as many as 1,200 newspapers nationwide, stated.

In a news release, NAA CEO David Chavern emphasized that the browser’s replacement of publishers’ ads with its own was an ethical minefield.

“Brave should feel free to create its own content on its own platforms, but it cannot illegally launch its own advertising business on the backs of our journalists, editors, technologists and other staff,” Chavern stated.

The signatories argue they have the right to damages of up to $150,000 per work the Brave browser monetizes, Business Insider reports.

“Brave Is the Solution, Not the Problem”

In a response to the association, Eich argued that Brave’s intentions are being misunderstood.

“Brave is the solution, not the problem, for users and publishers,” he wrote in a press release. “We provide speed, privacy, protection from malware, and a new, anonymous payment model that helps the whole industry and publishers in particular, compared to the status quo.”

Eich claims the browser will make enough money to cover the revenue lost from the displaced ads, money that will go to publishers. The company has offered to meet with NAA to discuss how the browser can work for publishers.

“We will fight alongside all citizens of the Internet who deserve and demand a better deal than they are getting from today’s increasingly abusive approach to Web advertising,” he said.

Eich, who helped to popularize the Firefox web browser, is a prominent technology figure who is no stranger to controversy. The inventor of the Javascript programming language and the cofounder and one-time CEO of the Mozilla Foundation, Eich was forced out of his role with Mozilla in 2014 after facing criticism over his support of California’s Proposition 8.

The 2008 ballot measure, which barred same-sex marriage in the state, was later overturned by the Supreme Court in a 2013 ruling.

(Handout photo)

Patrick deHahn

By Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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