Op-ed suggests .pol to avert political cybersquatting. But the devil is in the details.
Matthew Sanderson, a political law attorney at Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, published an op-ed in the Washington Post today suggesting a new .pol domain name. This domain name would be reserved for politicians as a way to avoid “political cybersquatting”, whereby people snap up domain names of politicians to grab internet traffic.
The proposal makes sense on the surface, but I don’t think it will work. There are a few key issues:
1. Even if a politician has a .pol domain name, they’d need the equivalent .com. Web users forget what extension they’re supposed to use. Even vice-presidents forget. So if I had AllemannforGovernor.pol, I’d also need AllemannforGovernor.com to prevent an opponent from capturing my web traffic.
2. Politics is worldwide, not just a United States institution. It would be fairly easy to confirm the political status of people in the U.S., but what about outside? Some person from a third world country could say they’re a politician or represent that politician, but confirming it would be nearly impossible. Further, challengers to dictators would have a hard time getting any sort of confirmation from their country’s government that they are a politician. Sanderson cites .edu, but confirming schools qualify for .edu is rather easy since they have to be accredited by a select list of organizations. .Gov is for U.S. government agencies only, but starting something like that today would be more difficult politically than when .gov was conceived.
3. Free speech. You can own a politician’s domain name and not be considered “cybersquatting” if you are using it in a non-commercial manner, such as criticizing that politician’s views.
Sanderson wrote a longer paper on the topic of .pol that may address some of these issues.
Fortunately for those that agree with Sanderson, they can let the market decide. If someone with about a half million dollars of backing wants to, they can apply to ICANN for a .pol domain name in the upcoming free-for-all top level domain expansion.