Posted by Anne Landman on January 05, 2011

A recent Spin of the Day item on PRWatch says that Bank of America bought up hundreds of derogatory Internet domain names related to their business, like BankofAmericaSucks.com and BrianMoynihanBlows.com (referring to BofA's CEO). Purchasing derogatory domain names is a quiet but common corporate strategy to try to minimize or contain bad PR.

Tobacco industry documents, for example, show that in 2001, after Philip Morris changed its corporate name to Altria Group to escape the bad image of being a tobacco company, the company bought up a huge number of similarly derogatory domain names, including AltriaSucks, Altria-Sucks, AltriaKills, and AltriaStinks, each one with the suffixes .com, .net and .org. The company also bought a wide variety of misspellings of the domain name, including Altreea.com, Alltreya,com, etc. Unfortunately for companies like Altria and BofA, there is now much more to the Internet's power to reveal the results of their harmful products and anti-social corporate behavior. One example is the incredibly moving YouTube video, "Thanks, Tobacco: You Killed My Mom," showing the time-lapse deterioration of the filmmaker's mother as a result of her smoking. It's one of the most impactful anti-smoking videos ever made, and there is little if anything that Altria/Philip Morris can do to stop items like this from being made widely available to the public.

Comments

It is good practice for companies to buy up misspelled versions of their domains, so that fumble fingered typists still get to the correct website.

Buying up derogatory versions of company domains makes sense too, but for less laudable reasons.

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