We’ve all seen advertisements masquerading as editorial content—not on TR, of course, but elsewhere on the web. These “advertorials” are becoming increasingly prevalent, and they’re not always clearly demarcated. Thankfully, there’s now a way to sniff out this insidious content. Google programmer Ian Webster has created AdDetector, a plugin for Chrome and Firefox that identifies so-called “native advertising.”
Webster reportedly created AdDetector in his spare time, and the plugin sounds pretty slick. It’s capable of detecting advertorial content even when the clues are buried in source code rather than plainly visible on the page. If sponsored content is detected, a red bar is displayed across the top of the browser window. The sponsor’s name is shown if it’s available.
Although some Chrome extensions are misbehaving, this one should be legit. Webster notes that user data is “never used, stored, or transmitted.” The plugin’s full source code is available on Github, too, for those who want to audit or contribute to the project. Let’s hope advertisers can’t use the source to avoid detection.
I’ve noticed a definite uptick in sponsored content on some of the sites that I read, but now I’m wondering how much of it I’ve missed. Hiding disclosure in the page source is sneaky business indeed. I might start running AdDetector just to figure out which sites are disguising their use of paid content—and then avoid visiting them entirely. Thanks to Engadget for the tip.