Politics and Disposable Domain Names

| November 28, 2011

With the news not too long ago that Republican Jack Abramoff is fighting to get control of jackabramoff.com from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, I thought I’d take a look at the always tricky subject of domain names used in politics.

Abramoff is just the latest in a long line of people in political circles to have risked embarrassment by not registering their names in .com. Registering the name of a political opponent – or somebody you simply disagree with – to criticize them online is a common tactic during election cycles.

To name just one example, when former eBay CEO Meg Whitman ran for governor of California in 2010, she found she had to fight for megwhitmanforgovernor.com and a handful of other relevant domains, which had been registered by somebody else, using the UDRP. And she lost!

Because the UDRP is especially unpredictable when it comes to personal names, if you’re running for office the only way to defend yourself from these kind of attacks is to register as many variations of your name as possible. Even if you win, the UDRP process can run for many weeks, more than enough time for embarrassing headlines and a loss of political capital.

Elections come and go, and some – but definitely not all – political domains are what I call “disposable” domains.

Here in Washington state, voters recently approved Initiative 1183 to privatize liquor sales, following a campaign that was hosted at yeson1183.com. That domain has a limited opportunity for re-use. But the unsuccessful campaign for the “no” vote was hosted at protectourcommunities.com – a fantastic domain that could be used for any number of future political campaigns.

Just because a campaign is over, it does not mean that you should let your domain expire. While johnsmith2011.com may be disposable, johnsmithforgovernor.com may not. There’s always the next election cycle to think about! The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, discovered this the hard way this year when he was forced to file a UDRP for the expired domain backboris.com, which he’d used to get elected in 2008 and plans to use again in 2012.

Politicians may not think about inbound links and SEO when they’re campaigning for office, but lots of domain investors do. Even a domain that may appear temporary and “disposable” will have attracted lots of links during a campaign; if it’s allowed to expire it will be snapped up for the traffic. If it’s subsequently registered by somebody who uses it to drive traffic to controversial services – such as gambling or pornography – that could harm the politician’s image. Once a domain has expired, it could be used for anything, even re-registered by a political rival.

Politics is a dog-eat-dog world, the Internet is increasingly being used to reach out to voters and far too many politicians don’t think carefully enough about their domain names.

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Category: Domain Industry

About the Author ()

Susan is the VP of Partner and Industry Relations at DomainTools. An accomplished domain industry executive, Susan is responsible for leading DomainTools’ business development efforts in the DNS and network security markets. In this role, she is responsible for all Enterprise clients, Reseller partners and Affiliates. Susan plays an integral role at DomainTools, leading thought leadership and participation in important industry working groups such as at ICANN, INTA, IACC and APWG. Susan joined DomainTools in 2007. Prior to DomainTools, she spent 15 years in the DNS and hosting markets, most recently running Client Service and Operations for a fast-growing webhost provider ultimately rolled into what is now Web.com.