Reddit Will Automatically Include Affiliate Links, but No Disclosure Plan

Published: June 6, 2016 11:18 PM /


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In an effort to achieve a larger degree of monetization, Reddit has announced it will be rolling out a system to automatically rewrite links to include an affiliate URL. Under this system, Reddit will get credit anytime someone links to a merchant that Reddit has partnered with. The post states the Reddit has partnered with about 5000 merchants, but Amazon is not one of them.

The post describes the process, "The redirect will be inserted by JavaScript when the user clicks the link. The link displayed on hover will match the original link. Clicking will forward users through a third-party service called Viglink which will be responsible for rewriting the URL to its final destination." To address privacy concerns of Reddit users, the post adds, "We’ve signed a contract with them that explicitly states they won't store user data or cookies during this process."

Right now the system is in a test phase, and only a limited number of users will be affected. They are planning a larger rollout in the near future out which will affect the entire site. The post also states that adblockers will not break the system, even if Viglink is a blocked domain. In response to comments, it is stated that the system was only tested with Adblock Plus, and it may not work with other adblockers.

It is possible to opt out of the this feature, and a new subsection of Reddit Help that concerns affiliate links has an explanation of how to opt out. It also states that links which already contain affiliate codes will not be altered by this new system. Although it is possible to opt out on an individual level, it is not currently possible for an entire subreddit to opt out. However, the post does state, "we will be discussing this with subreddit mods who are significantly affected before a wider rollout."

The post makes no mention of how Reddit will comply with the FTC guidelines on disclosing affiliate links, if at all. Disclosures are required to be as close to the link as possible and not hidden away in a help or about page. Given that this will apply to many link posts, it must be visible on the applicable subreddit page. The initial announcement of affiliate links being added is presumably not good enough to meet the FTC's standard.

Is automated affiliate linking a good way for Reddit to monetize the site? Leave your comments below.

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I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.