Disqus has a partnership with VigLinks, a link skimmer that automatically adds affiliate links to content. VIgLinks itself offers this service to anyone, but Disqus now bakes it into their system as a “feature” to help “publishers to receive compensation for traffic they drive to ecommerce sites.”
They have a guide that explains how it works. That alone is part of the game when using Disqus, I guess, but it's sold as a promise to help publishers. What's disturbing, is that I found out this morning that they may be replacing links even when publishers are opted out.
Syed Balkhi runs the popular WP Beginner site, and he also is a partner of OptinMonster, a commercial WordPress plugin. He discovered that naked links (those without affiliate URLs) to OptinMonster were being replaced with affiliate links. He was also opted out of the affiliate system with Disqus, because he manages that on his own. Here's a video of his experience:
So, is it a bug or is Disqus purposefully replacing naked links even when users opt out? I learned from Syed that he also has confirmed the issue with a couple of other site owners that had linked to OptinMonster directly, but he was seeing referrals to affiliates from those sales.
Disqus and VigLink need to talk. Because if they are replacing links even when their users opt-out, that's a big problem. And even if it's just a bug, and not intentional, this is just another reason why I personally could not use Disqus.