The Prevalence of High-Risk and Mainstream Advertisements Targeting Canadians on Rogue Websites

52 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2014 Last revised: 10 Aug 2023

Date Written: January 2014


The revenue models underpinning rogue websites have only received research attention (Taplin, 2013). The accumulation of wealth through advertising on rogue websites diverts revenues from rightsholders, who have invested in creative industries, and threatens the viability of such industries by eroding the earnings base. Yet the greatest risks from advertising on these sites are primarily financial; instead, these sites represent a clear and present danger to their users, who are often children. While users are often exposed to "mainstream" advertising – juxtaposing household company names with hardcore pornography and other illicit material – "high risk" advertising has been found to comprise the overwhelming majority of ads targeting Australians (Watters, 2013a) and Singaporeans (Watters, 2013b). In this study, we use the methodology developed by Watters (2013a) to assess the harms due to users from viewing rogue website ads. A total of 5,000 webpages sampled from Google’s ad transparency report were downloaded in Canada, and each ad banner was categorized as being high risk or mainstream, after each page was verified as being in breach of DMCA for movies and TV from major international studios. 11% of ads were mainstream, 89% were high risk. The prevalence of mainstream ads being served to Canadians is one order of magnitude greater than similar advertising being shown to Australians, but similar to Canadians. The policy implications of this result and future research directions, including methodology enhancements, are discussed.

Keywords: Advertising, pornography, gambling, DMCA

Suggested Citation

Watters, Paul, The Prevalence of High-Risk and Mainstream Advertisements Targeting Canadians on Rogue Websites (January 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Paul Watters (Contact Author)

Cyberstronomy Pty Ltd ( email )

Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000


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