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Take that Meatfilter.com...
October 1, 2001 11:27 AM   Subscribe

Take that Meatfilter.com... On Monday, Oct. 1, the FTC plans to announce the beginning of a campaign against scores of Web sites that capitalize on typo variants of popular domain names in order to dupe unsuspecting Internet surfers. I think this is a good thing, but how far can the US government truly influence shady internet practices? Should it even try?
posted by thewittyname (18 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
This reminds me of the whole 1-800-Operator/1-800-Collect thing between AT&T and MCI. MCI made a smart business decision when they bought 1-800-Operater because they banked on the fact that people would spell the word "Operator" wrong. They were correct in their assessment and it ended up causing lots of AT&T's dollars to go to MCI. This was a good business move if you ask me. It caused AT&T to have to change from 1-800-Operator to CALL ATT which is their big deal now. Is it fair though? To me what MCI did was smart. Should they (and others) be penalized for having good business sense?

Granted none of us wants to be redirected to a porn site when we are trying to get to metafilter, but on the other hand I have to give credit to someone smart enough to take advantage of common typos. The article does make reference to the fact that Home Depot, Amtrak and Coca Cola have been guilty of this practice in the past. Is the FTC going to target everyone that does this? Or simply the ones that have websites we don't want to see?

Just my two cents anyway.
posted by monique at 11:42 AM on October 1, 2001


Ought to be interesting to see how they decide what is a premeditated and nefarious, and what is simply a different spelling or satire. I guess the acid test is what sort of site pops up when one mistypes the address.

I just wish the browser developers could come up with a way to thwart the popup explosions without having to disable javascript.
posted by terrapin at 11:47 AM on October 1, 2001


Who here hasn't mindlessly gone to whitehouse.com when trying to get to the White House website?
posted by jennak at 11:49 AM on October 1, 2001


Finally revenge against those evil folks at ABCMews.com
posted by computerface at 11:56 AM on October 1, 2001


This is not really new territory; at least not totally new. Trademark law makes use of the concept of "confusion," which is a jury question in a trial. The interesting, new thing here is that some of the "confusion" comes from misspellings or poor memory (drudgereport.com versus drudge.com). Or whitehouse.com This is definitely fun, interesting stuff.

By the way, I think the only rational policy would be to focus on the Web sites rather than the URLs. In other words, unless an imposter web site looks like the real one (and isn't satirical), everything's fair game. There's just no other manageable course to take.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:20 PM on October 1, 2001


This is not really new territory; at least not totally new. Trademark law makes use of the concept of "confusion," which is a jury question in a trial. The interesting, new thing here is that some of the "confusion" comes from misspellings or poor memory (drudgereport.com versus drudge.com). Or whitehouse.com This is definitely fun, interesting stuff.

By the way, I think the only rational policy would be to focus on the Web sites rather than the URLs. In other words, unless an imposter web site looks like the real one (and isn't satirical), everything's fair game. There's just no other manageable course to take.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:21 PM on October 1, 2001


If you then do this, you are probably going to far. It is amazing what you can get away with.
posted by Wet Friday at 12:27 PM on October 1, 2001


But the FTC should go after double posts. : (
posted by ParisParamus at 12:27 PM on October 1, 2001


Think they'll go after whitehouse.com?
posted by msacheson at 12:38 PM on October 1, 2001


terrapin: I think there are pop-up disabler plugins out there that specifically turn off javascript only for spawning new windows; I know at least one MeFi thread has covered that. Me, I just get good at going to Tools -> Options -> Security in IE 5/6 before I go to sites that I fear will be popup hells- plus, you gotta customize those Zones, leave most potentially f*cked-up features- activex (it never fails to amaze me that folks have Comet Cursor and dialer.exe programs installing without a friggin' prompt. Geezus! It's like running around Central Park at night, butt-naked with $50 bills taped to your body, browsing the web so promiscuously!), cookies, some specific script operations- only for manually- added trusted sites.

I don't know how I feel about the gov't getting involved- seems a bit like the sledgehammer-instead-of-the-flyswatter approach (and that bit about dragging in the "we're doing it to protect the children" gambit always gives me the willies). Pagejacking is fraud and theft of copyrighted material- since they're often stealing the full HTML of the page itself- and that might be actionable to an extent. Stealing a site layout and look is less clearcut, with millions upon millions of sites and pages out there- it's almost not worth pursuing excepting when someone is trying to fool users into thinking they're at a different site when they're not (Such as, say, setting up "yaho.com" to look exactly like yahoo.com, right down to the copyright footer at the bottom, for example), or stealing actual content. The one-off address thing is otherwise mostly harmless, both as satire and just innocuous coincidence: meatfilter isn't just some pop-up spawning hell, it's a legitimate (enough) site, as is ABCMews.com.

Mousetrapping is disgusting- and stupid, since it doesn't actually do anything except piss off the user- but beatable by the user and the technology without government intervention; however that one I can see a case made for- it would be akin to turning on a TV to PBS and having the PBS folk suddenly switch to a rebroadcast of Spice without warning. If you choose to go to a site- even through a mispelling- that's your responsibility, but if that site then forces you to go to sites you don't choose in any way, and without allowing you the option to opt-out short of killing off the whole browser process... well, I'm not sure what legal standing there would be to "go after" that, but it more than any other websurfer dirty trick is one I wouldn't be sad to see go- but not necessarily at the expense of inviting the government in and starting a horrible precedent.
posted by hincandenza at 12:44 PM on October 1, 2001



The new version of mozilla has an option to turn of javascript open.newwindow (i think that's what it is).

It's a bit hidden at present, but, as with most of these mozilla features you should see it in the 'preferences' sometime soon.

No use for me as I can't use my bank if I disable it!
posted by nedrichards at 1:06 PM on October 1, 2001


This is just wrong, when government intervenes with URLs its usually because of the interests of deep pockets. Browser technology is years old and if this point you can't habitually use bookmarks or can't stand that someone might be using a perfectly valid URL like meatfilter than install some nannyware on your PC.

These types of laws have already been abused. Remember etoy.com and etoys.com? If not do a websearch.

If you don't like 'your browsing experience' get a browser that lets you turn off pop-ups on the fly specifically or by disabling javascript. Don't like the porn you accidentally run into? Install nannyware. Just don't go crying to uncle sam because you can't manage bookmarks or that on occasion you might be led astray.

Protect your own PC, don't expect the government to hold your hand on-line, its just too easy to abuse.
posted by skallas at 1:07 PM on October 1, 2001


This just reminds me of the time one of my coworkers at a previous job(housewares) referred a customer to The Spice House rather than The Spice House. I was giggling for hours.
posted by Su at 1:31 PM on October 1, 2001


i agree with skallas, this is ridiculous. i agree that sometimes it's annoying to reach the wrong site by mis-typing the URL, but it's your own damn fault. Learn how to f*ing type, or spell, or bookmark. The entire etoy/etoys situation was BS. I apologize, but for some reason this just pisses me off.
posted by physics at 1:44 PM on October 1, 2001


This is none of the Government's business.
posted by glenwood at 2:15 PM on October 1, 2001


It is silly. And although I somewhat agree with the urge to stop porn and casino sites from being manipulative like that, the second that anyone does that, you know that big business will go after every little guy with a similar domain name, porn or otherwise.

Anyone remember that whole mattl thing?
posted by mkn at 3:26 PM on October 1, 2001


I'll place me vote in the 'this is stupid' box, also.
posted by Wet Friday at 6:25 PM on October 1, 2001


thank god this site is safe!
posted by jcterminal at 6:38 PM on October 1, 2001


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