Disqus potentially adding affiliate links to users’ content, opted out or not

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.

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9 Comments

  1. You want to hope so badly it’s just a bug that those are getting included by default, but I’m not convinced. Disqus has always struck me as a company that is (1) easily distracted and (2) unconcerned with the details. Their hodgepodge UI is enough to convince me that’s the feeling in the design team, anyway.

  2. Or, honestly, it could just be a goof. Everyone makes them sometimes.

    Has anyone reached out to Disqus directly to ask them about this, or to comment on the post?

  3. And don’t even get me started on the “troll” stalking issues which can really be quite scary if you sit down and think about it.

    Consider that when someone “follows” you, they can likewise read everything you post and “troll you” at every post.

    Disqus = Please stalk me.

  4. Hey Guys, this was a bug on our end that we have since fixed. You shouldn’t see affiliate linking on your site unless expressly enabled in your admin panel.

    We apologize for the confusion and appreciate you reaching out to help us fix it!

  5. It’s like Disqus likes falling on their face. They keep pushing objectionable changes out enabled by default.

    This is why I recommend all my clients away from Disqus. Too many false steps for what looks from the outside like a professional outfit.

  6. That’s horrible! Nothing else to say except how appalling a mistake this is! God I hope it’s just a bug that they’ll fix (and hopefully apologize for) soon!

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