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IAB Tech Lab Releases for Comment: Content Taxonomy 2.2 to Improve Brand Safety and Support Brand Suitability

Partners with GARM to Create Common Language for Advertiser Control Over Surrounding Content

In Public Comment until November 27

NEW YORK (Oct 28, 2020) – IAB Tech Lab today released Content Taxonomy 2.2, a common language to help third-party verification vendors and publishers identify content so that the advertisers can make decisions about whether it’s appropriate for their ads. Tech Lab worked closely with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) to create the update, with the shared goal of creating a safer digital environment.

The Content Taxonomy enables buyers to use a consistent, easy-to-understand language across the entire advertising ecosystem (all publishers and platforms) to describe content that may be considered harmful or unsuitable. As part of the update:

  • 11 “sensitive topic” categories were developed that range from adult and explicit sexual content to terrorism.
  • Risk levels were created to identify a range of suitability and are treated as additional attributes of the content. The four levels of risk are “Floor,” “High Risk,” “Medium Risk,” and “Low Risk.”
  • Both topics and risk levels work together, dynamically. 

“While Tech Lab had always planned to update the Content Taxonomy, COVID-19 has accelerated the need as many advertisers blocklisted critical and educational topics about the pandemic,” said Amit Shetty, Sr. Director, Product, IAB Tech Lab. “With the updated framework, advertisers have more control and can be nuanced about what topics they advertise on. At the same time, publishers can monetize more content that is not in the ‘floor’ category and the entire ecosystem can identify content that could potentially be harmful.”

“IAB Tech Lab’s Content Taxonomy 2.2 provides the means to operationalize the work we have done at GARM to define sensitive categories across the entire digital ecosystem, including programmatic,” said Rob Rakowitz, Initiative Lead, GARM. “We believe this update dramatically helps to increase brand safety and provide a baseline level of understanding for brands and publishers to clearly communicate the nature of the content that is being distributed.”

Full List of Sensitive Topic Categories include: 

  1. Adult & Explicit Sexual Content
  2. Arms & Ammunition
  3. Crime & Harmful Acts to Individuals and Society and Human Right Violations
  4. Death Injury, or Military Conflict
  5. Online Piracy 
  6. Hate Speech & Acts of Aggression
  7. Obscenity and Profanity
  8. Illegal Drugs/Tobacco/E-Cigarettes/ Vaping/Alcohol
  9. Spam or Harmful Content
  10. Terrorism
  11. Sensitive Social Issues

To review the proposed standard and provide feedback, please go to

About IAB Tech Lab
Established in 2014, the IAB Technology Laboratory (Tech Lab) is a non-profit consortium that engages a member community globally to develop foundational technology and standards that enable growth and trust in the digital media ecosystem. Comprised of digital publishers, ad technology firms, agencies, marketers, and other member companies, IAB Tech Lab focuses on solutions for brand safety and ad fraud; identity, data, and consumer privacy; ad experiences and measurement; and programmatic effectiveness. Its work includes the OpenRTB real-time bidding protocol, ads.txt anti-fraud specification, Open Measurement SDK for viewability and verification, VAST video specification, and Project Rearc initiative for privacy-centric addressability. Board members/companies are listed at For more information, please visit

IAB Tech Lab Media Contacts
Kate Tumino / Brittany Tibaldi
212-896-1252 / 347-487-6794