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Police splash ads across more than 250 pirate sites

Freedom of Information request reveals extent of police campaign against pirate websites

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that the police are advertising on more than 250 sites linked to piracy, in a bid to reduce the revenue the pirates can earn from advertising themselves. 

The request, made by the TorrentFreak website, revealed the City of London Police had placed warning ads on 251 suspected pirate sites. Although City’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) declined to reveal exactly which sites had been targeted, TorrentFreak reports the “the most prominent pirate sites are believed to be included”.

The banner adverts contain a stark warning that “This website has been reported to the police” and asks users to “Please close the browser page containing this website”. 

We asked the City of London Police how much public money had been spent on the advertising campaign, but a spokesman for the force told us that the advertising networks host the adverts for free. The FOI request revealed 134 ad networks are co-operating with the police on the campaign, up from 84 last year.

Figures released earlier this month by the City of London Police suggest the ads are having the desired effect, too. Since the police started the campaign against what it calls the Infringing Website List in 2013, ” there has been a 73% decrease in advertising from the UK’s top ad spending companies on copyright infringing websites,” the press release claims. 

The police claim that discouraging advertising from well-known brands will help consumers realise that the sites are illegitimate. “Not only do the public need to be aware that these websites are not safe places to visit as they often contain malware and viruses, but the criminals behind these sites are making substantial sums of money from advertising and inadvertently brand and advertisers are funding this online crime,” said Detective Chief Inspector Peter Ratcliffe, head of PIPCU.

Some of the sites being targeted in the campaign are already being blocked by Britain’s major broadband providers, following court orders. However, clones of the sites often reappear on different domain names within days of them being blacklisted by the ISPs. 

(Photo credit: Tobias Vemmenby under Creative Commons.)

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