March 4th, 2010

Burn baby burn (pic by Waywind)

Signal boost: LJ is changing your outbound links

Livejournal is secretly, and deliberately, changing certain outbound links that you post.

If you have affiliate links set up at places like Amazon, Livejournal is stealing money from you.

Even if you don't, this is a serious privacy issue, and they are breaking your links. For example, goes to the front page of eBay when you click the link, unless you've opted out or blocked the Javascript file they're using to make the change.

If this were something they had announced, and they had offered clear opt-out instructions (instead of some users blindly stumbling across the setting and sharing it), it would be one thing. But sneaking this under the radar is a breach of trust to their user base, and sadly just the latest in a string of corporate missteps. (Edited to add: "Not that I do any kind of revenue generation, but I can't tolerate a system that changes my content without my knowledge or consent." -dagoski)

Some of my friends (including paid/permanent users) are leaving for Dreamwidth over this, and I don't blame them. I'll be setting up an account there myself*, but I'm going to wait for LJ's response to this issue before making my final decision on migration.

Please take a moment to help get some answers here:
  • If our friend circles don't have significant overlap, post something about this in your journal or in a community you belong to. This affects everyone using the service.
  • Ask Livejournal what the hell is going on. They can ignore silent outrage. They can't afford to ignore noisy outrage. Possible venues:
    • Add a comment to the support request open for this. (There may be others, or you might want to open a new request. I wouldn't personally do so. Spamming support requests clutters up the volunteer-driven system, and forces a fragmented response on their part.)
    • Add a comment to their latest post in news -- which at the time of this writing is this one -- asking for details and linking to one of the source pages. Or on one of their official communities: lj_releases, lj_maintenance, suggestions, etc.
    • Click on "Feedback" on their Contact Us page and leave a note.

Direct links for use in your posts: - Original explanation - Technical explanation - Confirming the changing of affiliate links

EDITED TO ADD: The affiliate tampering is also against most of the affected services' TOS, and alerting those third-party websites to LJ's violation is another effective and immediate action that can be taken to remedy this.

ETA x2: I am now baxil on Dreamwidth; please friend me if you have an account there. I am not leaving LJ yet; I will let people know before I make any final decision, and for now I'm simply colocating.

ETA x3: " we have just begun the process of pulling this script", they say in comments to the latest news post. Developing ...

ETA x4 (2010/03/04 4:30 pm): The LJ team confirms they are in the process of removing the script, according to comments on that post. The script "wasn't supposed to override anyone's affiliate links" [*], but the whole story has not yet been told. I await further word.

* Any volunteers to provide me with an invite code? Invite code received, thank you!