2011 Domain Dunce award: elephant hunting and domain names
Elephant hunting and viral internet causes.
Let’s keep our Domain Dunce awards going with Bob Parsons’ elephant shooting video and the aftermath.
In March, GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons posted a video of him shooting a “problem elephant” in Zimbabwe. The video went viral after someone posted it to Change.org and asked people to boycott GoDaddy.
PETA joined the party, too, transferring its domains away from GoDaddy and admonishing Parsons.
There are a few things that make this whole incident interesting.
First, it shows that online content can be published but needs a little kickstart to truly go viral. The year before this incident Parsons posted an elephant shooting video but it didn’t catch on. It wasn’t until a year later, a new video, and the Change.org posting that people got up in arms. A similar thing happened later in the year when GoDaddy was called out for supporting SOPA. It had been a vocal supporter of SOPA since the beginning, but it wasn’t until a poster on Reddit got involved that people started paying attention. (GoDaddy later changed its position on SOPA.)
Second, although Parsons defended his actions, he quietly made some changes to his hunting video to make it less controversial. The updated video lost the AC/DC soundtrack, deleted pictures of Parsons standing next to the dead elephant holding his gun, omitted a picture of a bunch of villagers surrounding him with Go Daddy hats, changed subtitles to emphasize their target was a bull elephant, changed subtitles to no longer reflect that Parsons was the one who did the shooting, and included added video of happy villagers butchering the elephant.
Making matters worse, Parsons then threatened some people with copyright infringement over their use of the video. Upsetting animal lovers is one thing; upsetting internet supporters is another (as GoDaddy found out with the SOPA uproar).
Third, this incident didn’t really hurt GoDaddy. Lots of commenters on Domain Name Wire predicted it would have a devastating affect on the company. We certainly haven’t seen that. It also helped promote GoDaddy’s Video.me site, which hosted the video.
Finally, the elephant shooting incident provided for some comedy later in the year when GoDaddy girl Jillian Michaels decided to join a PETA protest of Ringling Bros. circus over its treatment of elephants.