Adblock Plus launches AI-powered ad detector ‘Sentinel,’ and invites people worldwide to train neural network algorithms to understand what bad ads look like
eyeo, makers of Adblock Plus, the #1 most popular browser extension for blocking annoying online advertisements with over 1 billion downloads, today ushered in a new era of ad blocking with the beta launch of Sentinel, an artificial intelligence (AI) technology that can detect ads without the use of the blocking lists that are typically used in ad blocking. Available today as a beta project at https://adblock.ai, the neural network technology is currently being trained to detect ads and thwart circumvention technologies that try to evade consumers who use ad blockers.
To optimise the training of the AI system, eyeo is inviting consumers worldwide to visit https://adblock.ai, and submit screenshots of their ad-cluttered Facebook pages. Sentinel will learn to block Facebook ads first, and will then learn to recognise other ad types.
eyeo’s engineers developed this technology in reaction to aggressive tactics that attempt to re-insert ads onto pages for consumers who have ad blockers installed. Sentinel will look at the way an actual website is displayed on the screen to try and detect advertisements, instead of looking at the underlying code. This approach uses what is known as “object detection” in the machine learning world. The idea is that with merely a screenshot of a website, the AI will learn to identify where the ads on that screenshot are. Once that is achieved, likely through months of training, it can be deployed to automatically crawl the entire web, detecting and/or blocking ads.
Sentinel is an ongoing, open project. It is very likely that at some point eyeo’s engineers will collaborate with academics and researchers to examine the results of this evolving experiment. However, the focus now is on contributions from the public and collaboration with other ad blockers. That is to say, it is fueled entirely by the web community.
“This is the future of ad blocking. Facebook and others are getting clever at disguising ads from ad blockers and using circumvention techniques to show you ads anyway,” explained Till Faida, CEO and co-founder of eyeo. “These tricks disregard your stated preference to block ads. We’ve always been able to develop workarounds to these circumvention techniques, but this cat-and-mouse game will likely continue for the foreseeable future. While only at its earliest stage right now, our Sentinel offers the framework of a long-term solution to the rise of anti-user ‘circumventionists’; and could have implications for viewability and ad detection within the ads industry as well.”
“Adblock Plus is asking its millions of users to help ‘feed the machine’ by submitting screenshots of their Facebook feeds. In order to train the neural networks to spot Facebook ads perfectly, we need to show it lots of examples, so start sending those screenshots today and tell your friends to do the same,” added Faida.
Be part of the future of ad blocking by contributing at https://adblock.ai.
eyeo is the developer of a suite of products that includes Adblock Plus, Adblock Browser, Trusted News and Flattr. Its solutions strive to put users in control of a fair, profitable web. People across the world have downloaded its most popular product, Adblock Plus, over a billion times, and it has remained the most downloaded and the most used extension almost continuously since November 2006.