[Update: A representative for Vox Media has stated that they will update their public disclosures across all their websites.]
[Original article:] The FTC updated their guidelines following an active campaign by #GamerGate back in 2015, as documented over on Kotaku in Action. The update for the guidelines centered around disclosures of paid material, endorsements, advertorials, and affiliate links. Some websites complied, others have not. One of the websites still using undisclosed affiliate links is Polygon.
Dedicated anons who are still vigilant in uncovering ethical violations from some of the largest gaming websites on the net have discovered that even though the FTC has been adamant about websites adding disclosures to content, not every site is willing to do so. In the case of Polygon, articles dating back to November, 2016 reveal that the site has been using Amazon affiliate links in some articles without disclosure.
If you check the links in that article, they direct you to Amazon pages for those products using the Amazon affiliate tag: polygongifts2016-20.
Newer articles, such as the one published on August 21st, 2017 by Ben Kuchera entitled “HTC Vive VR headset gets $200 price cut”, utilize an automated affiliate tag provided by an advertising vendor known as Skimlinks.
Polygon is an affiliate with Skimlinks, which uses a go.redirectnat.com service. If you go directly to the site, you’ll end up on the Skimlinks page, which explains…
“We’re Skimlinks — a service that helps online publishers earn money.
“When links in publishers’ content lead their users to click through and buy from an online retailer, we make sure they’re rewarded!
“We aim to make our service seamless and unobtrusive, so your user experience should not be interrupted”
Much like Viglinks, Skimlinks allows a content producer to attempt to gain revenue from outbound links for products sitewide.
If you check the pages on Polygon where these links appear, there is no disclosure that they are paid affiliate links.
Polygon does have an advertising policy on their ethics page, which states…
“Our website may [also] contain affiliate marketing links, which means we may be paid commission on sales of those products or services we write about. Our editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships.”
According to the FTC guidelines, disclosures are supposed to be made on the pages where the affiliate links are used. As noted on the FTC official website, disclosures should not be hidden behind hyperlinks or buttons…
“The disclosures we are talking about are brief and there is no reason to hide them behind a hyperlink.”
I did reach out to Polygon’s advertising department about the disclosures. I also attempted to reach out to Polygon’s editor-in-chief, Chris Grant, regarding the matter, but he has me blocked on Twitter.
(Thanks for the news tip Steve)