Site Navigation
b a

From TedCruz.ca to TaylorSwift.porn: How the golden age of domain-trolling was born

by: Chuck

The 2016 race has scarcely begun, and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz already has an image problem.

Typing tedcruz.com into your URL bar returns a black page that says “SUPPORT PRESIDENT OBAMA” in unequivocal all-caps. Tedcruzforamerica.com redirects to Healthcare.gov. TedCruz.ca confirms that the U.S. senator from Texax was, indeed, born Canadian. Tedcruz2016.com is pretty harmless — a carousel of scenic photos, with the promise that a real site is “coming soon” — but its owner has nothing to do with the Cruz campaign, and who knows what he or she is actually up to.

Never fear, Cruz fans: Your champion did eventually find an open domain name, in the cold and less-trafficked waters of the .org domain.

TedCruz

But the fact that his trolls conquered so much ground speaks to how popular this type of Internet tomfoolery has recently become. And in two short months, it’s going to get even worse: That’s when three of the most controversial new top-level domains — .porn, .adult and .sucks — are released to a merciless public. Taylor Swift already snapped up Web addresses on those domains to make sure no one uses them against her.

But as ICANN, the group that oversees and regulates domains, continues to make more of them available, the Internet is only getting bigger and more troll-able. New domains — .singles, .holiday, .guitars, .buzz, .gripe — have rolled out almost every week since ICANN began this latest round of domain expansion in October 2013. If you’re trying to protect your brand or reputation, good luck: T. Swift may have taylorswift.porn, but that still leaves taylorswift.sexy and taylorswift.pizza.

What is domain trolling, exactly? And how is it even legal? Given the strong anti-impersonation protections that most social networks supply, the ability to register an entire Web site in someone else’s name seems kind of … medieval.

And yet, there’s very little stopping jokesters, investors or less scrupulous entrepreneurs from buying up desirable Web addresses and either holding them for ransom or using them to straight-up troll.

“You can register anything you want in a domain name,” sums up Karl Kronenberger, a partner at the Internet law firm Kronenberger Rosenfeld.

Ihatethewashingtonpost.com? Yep.

Caitlindewey.sucks? Unfortunately.

These rules can vary by domain, of course, since each domain is managed by a different company. (Monolith Registry, the company that manages .vote and .voto, bans deceptive names and swears to vet all site registrants diligently.) And, to be clear, a lot of so-called domainers have legitimate business motives: They buy, develop and “flip” domains the way you would any other asset.

Read the full story at the Washington Post.