Vulture, a subsidiary of New York Magazine, published an article on May 2nd, 2018 entitled “The Best Video Games of 2018 (So Far)”. The article covers a number of games currently available on multiple platforms, and also offers options for people to purchase said games. Well, the fine folks at Kotaku In Action realized that the buying options actually contained Amazon affiliate links, but there was no disclosure in the article at all that the affiliate links were included and that Vulture Magazine would be making bank based on the purchases.
The Vulture article features A Way Out, Celeste, Dragon Ball FighterZ, God of War, Minit, Monster Hunter World and Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. Under each of the games other than Minit, there’s an option to buy the game from Amazon. Each of the Amazon links have an Amazon Associates ID of “Vulture-20”, as depicted in the screen grab below.
The Microsoft Store link for Minit is a standard outbound link, but all of the Amazon links contain the “Vulture-20” Amazon Associates store tag.
The Vulture piece has no disclosures at the top or bottom of the article indicating that the outbound purchase links are actually affiliate links.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, over on the guidance page they explicitly point out exactly how and why disclosures should be made when embedding affiliate links in an article…
“In some instances – like when the affiliate link is embedded in your product review – a single disclosure may be adequate. When the review has a clear and conspicuous disclosure of your relationship and the reader can see both the review containing that disclosure and the link at the same time, readers have the information they need. You could say something like, “I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.” But if the product review containing the disclosure and the link are separated, readers may not make the connection.”
Disclosures about affiliations and promotions of sponsored or promoted material is something that gamers had requested from news outlets four years ago during the #GamerGate consumer revolt, which demanded ethical journalism from news media outlets.
Vulture was actually one of the online media outlets that parroted the fabricated harassment narrative about #GamerGate, in a piece they published on October 16th, 2014, where they wrote…
“Three prominent women in the gaming industry say they have been forced to flee their homes after receiving threats of rape, torture, and even murder over the last two months. They are the most prominent targets of a very loosely organized movement of mostly anonymous gamers who, as part of a campaign that started with the intent of agitating for more stringent ethical standards in video-game journalism, have undertaken campaigns of harassment and intimidation against critics and perceived ideological opponents.”
Ironically, four years later, Vulture is perpetuating the sort of unethical behavior that #GamerGate wanted fixed… four years ago.
You can inform the Federal Trade Commission about Vulture’s affiliate links by following the guide on how to file a complaint through the consumer web portal on the FTC website.
(Thanks for the news tip Lyle)