Old Vidme embeds turn into a hub of porn after domain purchase

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Here’s (yet another) argument against using third-party embeds on your respectable website: Porn company 5 Star HD Porn bought the expired domain for video hosting site Vidme, which went out of business in 2017. This means that any websites with Vidme embeds now have porn on them. According to Motherboard, which reported the story first, the list of websites with unexpected porn embeds includes New York Magazine, the Washington Post, HuffPost, and others. And yes, we discovered one such embed on The Verge and have since disabled it.

<span class="e-image__image " data-original="https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/22734411/bad_vid_2.jpg">

    <picture class="c-picture" data-cid="site/picture_element-1626991318_2430_31071" data-cdata="{&quot;asset_id&quot;:22734411,&quot;ratio&quot;:&quot;*&quot;}">

</span>

It’s a very extreme example of link rot, which is what happens when online content or images are deleted or otherwise broken, so the links don’t point back to their original targets. We saw another widespread example of this after former President Trump was banned from Twitter in January after inciting a riot at the Capitol. The thousands of tweets the former president sent out over the years he was on Twitter were wiped out, and any embeds of the tweets now display as empty gray boxes. Some of the former president’s tweets must be preserved under the Presidential Records Act (which predates Twitter by more than four decades), and there’s a sortable archive of most of his tweets built by an independent developer, so his tweets haven’t totally disappeared from the internet.

Most social media platforms have enabled embeds of their content; Twitter activated embeds in 2012, and Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram all allow some version of embeds as well. Reddit has an option on its embedded content which allows users to have them blanked out if the post is edited.

Used correctly, embedded content can help illustrate a blog post or news item online, and provide a layer of credibility. But when links go bad, as they apparently have in the Vidme case, it can be a serious headache to deal with thousands of embeds that don’t go where they’re supposed to.

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