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Shira Lazar

Shira Lazar

Posted: September 23, 2010 12:31 PM

The Latest Political War: Over URLS

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A recent report from the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, or CADNA, a watchdog agency monitoring our online identities, found that only 32 percent of senators and only 22 percent of representatives own their own full names as web domains. According to CADNA President Josh Bourne, that's a surprising number considering how online outreach has become just as critical as offline engagement in the political race.

The report also revealed certain candidates, whose sites had been snagged by their opponents. For instance, if you type BobMenendez.org you're taken to a page owned and operated by Sharon Angle's campaign aimed to give her opponent, Sen. Harry Reid a "September to Remember". While Hillary Clinton did sue to get her domain back in 2005, the act of cybersquatting or sitting on a site in bad faith or to profit in the future is not illegal.

In a segment for Washington Unplugged on CBSNews.com, I spoke to two candidates who have both been affected by the domain name game. Libertarian, Jim Prindle running for U.S. Congress in Texas bought a bunch of sites around a year ago, including his opponents Sen. Ralph Hall. RalphHall.org now leads to Prindle's site, which he says aims to "maximize the exposure... is ethical and of course legal and within our first amendment rights."

Pennysylvania Congressman Joe Sestak, however, has found himself on the other end of the domain debate: "You call that trust when someone is actually using someone else's domain name? But on the other hand, that's Congressman Toomey and that's why he can't get in and we will." His URL, JoeSestak.org, was bought by his Republican opponent, Pat Toomey.

With the November elections right around the corner, CADNA did offer up some advice to candidates -- strategize your online brand, check if your domain is still available and if you're out of luck unfortunately Bourne told me, "There are very few remedies. It's very difficult to get it back." As the saying goes, all is fair in politics and the Internet?

 

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