Amazon Associates and Pentesting/Hacking Related Content?

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Hi.

I keep wondering if I could get banned from Amazon Associates for promoting their products on websites that contain hacking related content. The content is meant to be educational, and not malicious.

One of my websites had about 10% of articles related to hacking/pen-testing, or having topics lightly touching on the subject, but I removed that content, so that I could promote Amazon, since I was worried.

Given the fact that it was de-indexed from Bing for 1-2 months (it got re-indexed after I nagged Bing support), I'm thinking it's riskier with Amazon.

I asked Amazon support and the conclusions were:
  1. I'd have to submit my website first, and the review team will get back to me if the website is suitable.
  2. I asked if the website could put my account in jeopardy, even if it's just submitted for review, and they said yes. They said the review team sends a warning in some cases, or closes the account in others.
So that scared me, and I had given up on the idea since it seems to risky, however I was just reading a hacking related book and it hit me - if I read and reviewed a book like Hacking: The Art of Exploitation, 2nd Edition (https://www.amazon.com/Hacking-Art-Exploitation-Jon-Erickson/dp/1593271441/), could they ban me?

I'm not clear on their stance on such content. My guess would be that it depends on how the agent that's reviewing my site interprets the operating agreement, and my content.

In the Associates Program Policies > Enrollment and Eligibility point it, it states:
Unsuitable Sites include those that:

(b) promote violence or contain violent materials or promote, endorse or incite potentially dangerous or harmful acts,
(d) promote or contain materials or activity that is hateful, harassing, harmful, invasive of another’s privacy, abusive, or discriminatory (including on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or age),
(e) promote or undertake illegal activities,

I'm assuming hacking tutorials may be considered that I'm promoting harmful/invasive or privacy/illegal activities. I do mention things like "don't do this on networks you're not authorized on". I have, however seen big Linux/Pentesting YouTubers such as David Bombal promoting via Amazon ( YT Link: Top 5 Hacking Books: Blue Team Edition ). If you check, you'll see Amazon affiliate links in the video description.

I'm still not sure if it's safe for me to promote via Amazon as well, even after seeing him safely do it, because I figure he is a bigger name and may get a pass. I have seen big Amazon affiliates get a pass for other things, such as not having prices updated for years, while smaller accounts have been suspended.

Any thoughts on this? Any perspective at all would be appreciated.

Thank you!
 
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I see a few options:

1) Put the hacking website under a separate EIN or LLC, get a PO box, and register a brand new Amazon Associates account under the business email. This way it isn't tied to your other Amazon Associates accounts

2) Unpublish the hacking articles when you apply and only add them once you're accepted into the program (usually within 72 hours of applying, assuming you get traffic and sales). Your site doesn't typically get reviewed once it's approved.

3) Delete the hacking content because it's not worth pissing off advertisers. How much commissions and display ad rev do you actually expect to make from the hacking stuff? Does that rev gain offset the risk of losing some primary methods of monetization?

4) Contact Amazon Associates support a few more times and see what other answers you get.

You're probably overthinking it. Good luck.
 
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Hi. Thanks for your reply.

1 & 4) seem like the best option to me, at least at this time. Perhaps asking a few more times, and various agents, they may give me some more insight.

2 & 3) I did unpublish the hacking content off of the Linux tutorial site. The reason being what you said - it's not worth pissing off Amazon/other potential advertisers. Sometimes I do see visits on my websites from amazon.com and I shudder, so I'm not going to risk it unless I have some concrete idea of where I stand with this.

I don't have projected rev for hacking stuff, but I believe it could work well for me, based on my experience. It's not worth losing some primary methods of monetization, though.

Perhaps I'm overthinking it, but I can't lose Amazon as a source of monetization and at the same time I'd like to make use of the hacking niche as well.

Thanks again for you reply. It helps me see things more clearly.
 

Ryuzaki

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I don't have much to add other than to validate your thinking and try to help you close this loop in your mind.

You already sourced it all out. You talked to an Associates rep and they told you it was a no-go. You found in the Enrollment & Eligibility documents that it's a no-go. It's very clear cut.

Except for the fact that you can find hacking books being sold on Amazon. However, that doesn't mean it's okay. It could mean that enough attention hasn't been drawn to it, forcing Amazon to pull the books down. Also, if your aim is to sell books, you're talking about $0.25 or $0.50 per conversion. Books used to be great when you needed to push volume to bump you up to a higher commission tier but it doesn't work that way any more.

I just know that "other people are doing it" isn't really going to save you when the Amazon Reaper comes a-knockin'. It just means they haven't been caught yet.

It's always easy to join a program and then start breaking the rules after you have your site audits done by them. But they do come back around. I've had Amazon audit my sites multiple times over the years, finding little things they want changed. They absolutely come back around and will getcha.

If you're making money an Amazon Associates on other sites or plan to on future sites, this isn't a great idea. They also have a whole thing about "ban evasion" too, so registering businesses to get around it may not work out great either, depending on how much trouble they want to go through to enforce it (likely algorithmically so not much trouble at all).

My advice is, if you're doing affiliate marketing or display ads, to always keep it family friendly in concept and in every single post. And don't get cute about it. Just play by the rules and make your money.

I'd find some other way to monetize that site, or I'd move on from it, or I'd operate it as a hobby site and maybe use something like BuySellAds where you can sell direct advertising impressions to other hacking sites or anyone who's okay with being adjacent to that type of content. Likely Crypto and NFT's too.
 
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@Ryuzaki Thanks, you're right.

I'll probably stay away from Amazon with this type of content.

Books aren't the only thing I'd sell. The would also be computer hardware, which is would have been my main target. I used the book as an example, however, because it is clearly promoted on Amazon, which I found ironic, and it felt like there may be a chance, and someone would point out something I'm not seeing.

I'll promote something other than Amazon on a separate site. Thanks so much for taking the time!
 
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Checked AdSense guidelines, since I also wanted to try display ads. I guess this is a more direct answer that most likely applies to Amazon Associates, too.


Google Publisher Policies

Enabling dishonest behavior​

We do not allow content that:
  • [..]
  • promotes any form of hacking or cracking and/or provides users with instructions, equipment, or software that tampers with or provides unauthorized access to devices, software, servers, or websites.

And yet, many websites from top results use AdSense, when Googling Linux hacking related tutorials. (I'm not listing them here because I'm not sure that's cool)