Acceptable ads
Acceptable Ads: Adblocker Whitelists Explained

by Andrew

Whitelists, or ad types that are allowed by ad blockers, are for those ads that can be thought as the kind that the ad blocking user probably wouldn’t want to block in the first place. These are also known as acceptable ads.

A good test of what this kind of ad is, versus the kind that has made you go out and get an ad blocker, is whether they argue with user intent or page content. The acceptable ad goes with the page content better, and basically agrees with how the user experiences the page. Strong examples of this are text ads in internet search or in forums where the main content is text.

Degrees of Acceptability

Even though text ads in search are arguably the most integrated to web pages since they help users get their intent done fully, acceptable ads still come in other forms. These other ad styles tend to simply go well with a page’s content, or that look about the same as that content. They can also be relevant to the reason that a user may be on the site, but in forms other than text, such as sponsored articles which tend to look like on-site links. These are best as acceptable ads when they are at the end of main page content, where you might expect to see similar looking organic links. Their main ‘acceptable’ quality is that they blend in well.

The whitelist requirements were decided by a survey of users that reviewed ads to see whether they fit physically into page content, are relevant to the content of that page and how much they are able to help users interact with page content.

Advertiser Participation

All advertisers will of course want to be whitelisted, but the requirements are strict. And as we just talked about, they are also user, as opposed to advertiser, focused and because of that, acceptance rates are low. While the data on that is as of 2013, the whitelist requirements have hardly (if at all) changed since then. It’s hard to imagine how any difference in that acceptance rate would be from anything but advertisers submitting less intrusive ad types for whitelisting.

Importantly, and contrary to a popular myth, there aren’t any ad publishers that can pay to be whitelisted. While it’s true that there are large entities that are paying for their whitelisting status to be kept up because of the associated personnel and monitoring costs for whitelisting large ad networks, they got the status in the first place by meeting the requirements.

A large ad network in this case is one with whitelisted ads displaying on web pages at least 10 million times a month.

Less Acceptable Ads

Most users keep whitelists activated – they are a default feature in ad blockers sometimes – but some of the ads that have made the cut for whitelisting have been controversial. These ads might meet the requirements technically, but they have unfortunately turned out to annoy users despite their whitelist status.

These are mostly the (now-infamous) ads by Taboola, which are sponsored articles or listicles that appear on pages as obvious ad-like images. As might be needless to say, their presence on the whitelist has mystified a lot of ad blocking users.

An internet search on the topic of Taboola ads in terms of ad blockers allowing them turns up a lot of discussion on the issue. And in fact, there is an even an extension for Chrome that is just for blocking Taboola ads.

You can see what ad blocking user’s concerns are with whitelisted Taboola ads at this forum from the Adblock Plus website.

So in case these ads have been appearing for you there is a way to stop them while saving the useful or unobstructive part of the whitelist. Steps below.

Open Adblock Plus/AdBlock (click on the icon, which is on the top right side of most browsers. If it isn’t there, as in Windows Safari, look to the left.)

Click on ‘Options’

There will be a menu item there that lets you add filters, or blocking rules.

In AdBlock, this option is in the ‘Customize’ section.

In Adblock Plus, the option is in the ‘Advanced’ section of the options menu.

In the appropriate section there will be a blank dialogue box that lets you get those filters added.

To add the Taboola filter, copy and paste this line of code in the dialog box -


With that, you can be rid of the sometime user experience-detracting Taboola ads, and keep all of the other ads on the whitelist going.

Less Acceptable Ads

So while the whitelist has a few different types of ads, it’s important to know what type of ad will never be unblocked by an ad blocker. From the Acceptable Ads Committee’s website, they are:

Ads with special effects, like motion effects

Autoplay video ads

In-video ads

Ads that load new ads while the page content stays the same

Ads that grow in size

“Oversize” image ads

Full screen ads

Ads that cover page content



So that, generally, is the block list. But you already knew it anyway – they’re the reason you [probably] have an ad blocker humming in the background right now.

Whitelist Deactivation

Whitelist are a default feature in most ad blockers, and it’s easy to turn them off if you prefer.

Just click on the ad blocker’s icon, which will be on the top right or left of the screen and find the options menu where there will be an item addressing ‘Acceptable Ads’. Near that there will be a checkbox where you can turn the option on or off.

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