WordPress has suspended the Astra theme for being in violation of its affiliate link policy. The suspension will be in place for five weeks and will affect over one million users.
Despite the wide-ranging impact, information on the suspension has been somewhat low-key. The suspension was announced by the TRT Messenger (Theme Review Team Bot) on the WordPress support forum.
Users trying to find the theme from official WordPress repository will either find “no results” or a theme that is not the popular Astra theme as shown in the screenshot below.
The official social media channels of both Astra and WordPress and their blogs have done little to clarify the situation or share information.
For the less tech-savvy users, this is likely to present a huge challenges, especially with the anticipated release of WordPress 5.5 scheduled for August. With the suspension in place, users will not be able to update the Astra theme in the usual way.
Why the Astra theme was suspended from WordPress
The issue centres around affiliate links being injected into the Astra theme. Brainstorm Force, the theme’s publishers, have denied that they add affiliate links to the theme directly. However, they did concede that they add a referral code to third party plugins, adding:
“We’re not sure if using the referral filter is against the requirement. But if it is, we’re happy to remove it immediately and submit the new version.”
Below is the message that was posted on the support forum by the TRT WordPress bot when announcing the suspension of the Astra theme.
“18 months ago you started adding affiliate links in your theme.
…We have this requirement against this:
Themes are not allowed to have affiliate URLs or links.
We added this requirement more than 18 months ago, specifically for this kind of issue.
We also asked other theme authors to remove such links from their themes and discussed this topic, on Slack & the blog, for many weeks.
We don’t understand how you can miss something like this, and it’s also not the first time we have to come and tell you something is wrong with your theme.
Because of this, your theme will be suspended for the next 5 weeks (until 11 September 2020).”
What to do if you are affected by the suspension of Astra from WordPress
First, don’t panic. The theme should still work, but you will not be able to update your theme via WordPress for five weeks. Astra said that they are working on an update that will remove these referral codes and Brainstorm Force have requested that the suspension been lifted.
That, however, seems unlikely to happen since there has been ample warning given about the affiliate policy.
The Astra theme update will have to be downloaded directly from Astra or from their GitHub repository until the suspension is lifted.
If you are tech-savvy and running an uncomplicated site, you can simply change your theme (remember to test, we don’t take responsibility for anything going wrong, etc). You could also just wait it out, if you like the Astra theme and you want to stick with it.
However, if you are less technically inclined, it would be a good idea to disable automatic WordPress updates ahead of the anticipated release of 5.5. To make sure it is disabled, contact your hosting provider and check.
Update: Astra was later reinstated.