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Candidates, Squatters, and Gripers: A Primer on Political Cybersquatting and a Proposal for Reform

During last year’s election, were you hoping to read-up on Barack Obama’s abortion stance? Too bad, if you went to Obama ForPresident.com. It featured crossword puzzles and fantasy football rather than public-policy papers. Were you looking to volunteer for U.S. Senate candidate John Sununu? If you visited JohnSununu.com, it allowed you to sign up for a free online dating service but not to sign on to a political campaign. Did you want to help finance John McCain’s bid for the presidency? During much of the 2008 campaign season, a contribution submitted through the official-looking JohnMcain.com would have supported a man in Houston, Texas, without one nickel funding McCain’s run for the White House.

All three of these web sites were intuitively linked to prominent U.S. politicians, but none were owned by the candidates or their campaigns. These sites exemplified a broader trend. Without any legitimate affiliation, people nab rights to web sites that evoke politicians’ names. They do it for profit. They do it for spite. They do it to broadcast criticisms. They do it out of egotism or to indulge their idea of fun. Most importantly, they do it often and they do it everywhere. “Political cybersquatting,” as this practice is known, is occurring with increasing frequency around the world.

This article discusses political cybersquatting’s causes and proximate harms. The next section offers necessary background information on Internet processes and governance. The following section describes the politicalcybersquatting problem by showing that (1) candidates are seriously injured by cybersquatting, (2) candidates are exceptionally exposed to cybersquatting, and (3) candidates cannot rely on existing preventive and remedial methods to consistently solve their cybersquatting problems. Finally, the article proposes a new specialized top-level domain, “.pol,” as a way to mitigate political cybersquatting’s
harms.

To read this article by by Matthew T. Sanderson in the Election Law Journal
www.liebertonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/elj.2008.0013

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