Identity Squatting Can Cost Members of Congress Their Reputation

CADNA Finds that Only 25 Percent of Domains in Study Belonged to the Appropriate Member of Congress

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2010 – The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA) has released anidentity squatting study that reveals how members of Congress are facing the same challenges businesses face online: the challenges of delivering authorized online content to their audience and establishing an avenue for open dialogue. Overall, CADNA found that only 25 percent of the domain names examined in the study belonged to the appropriate member of Congress.

CADNA’s study measures the impact of identity squatting on the domain names that are the most commonly communicated as the official private websites of members of Congress in both the .COM and the .ORG extensions. These websites are typically used for campaigning and providing access to personal stories, since all members of Congress are allowed to use a .GOV domain as their official government site. Identity squatting refers to the act of registering domain names containing famous individuals’ names in bad faith with the intention of profiting off of their fame.

“Identity squatting can be extremely damaging to an individual’s reputation and can lead to confusion and distrust on the part of Internet users,” said CADNA president Josh Bourne. “For businesses, cybersquatting can result in lost sales, lost impressions, diverted customers, and damaged reputations. For their customers it can be far worse; financial loss and threats to personal safety. For members of Congress, identity squatting can lead to misinformation, confusion among constituents and damage to their reputation.”

“Legitimate First Amendment use of domain names should be protected; however, better legislation that creates stronger deterrents and punishment for bad faith behavior would significantly help reduce instances of cybersquatting and identity squatting. Only 0.53 percent of the third party-owned domains we reviewed constituted protected free speech use – the vast majority was owned by squatters making trouble or hoping for a payoff,” said Bourne.

The Coalition analyzed the three domain names that are the most commonly communicated as the official private websites of members of Congress in both the .COM and the .ORG extensions for each member of Congress, or 3,210 domains in total. CADNA determined which were owned by the appropriate member of Congress, which were owned by a third party, and which were available.

Of the 100 senators and 435 representatives, 111 did not own any of the six domain names examined in the study and 185 owned only one. At the time of the study, only one member owned all six domain names. Members of the Senate, on average, tend to own slightly more domain names than members of the House, but there is no difference in average ownership between Democrats and Republicans.

The highest rate of third party ownership of the domains in this study occurred among senators’ domain names, with 54 percent registered to third parties. CADNA found many instances where domains registered to third parties redirected to the websites of candidates running against the corresponding member of Congress in the upcoming midterm election. More common was domain parking with sponsored advertisements that routinely included reputation-harming links to groups with opposing political views.

Before publishing the study, CADNA contacted the offices of all 535 members of Congress to inform them which domain names it had examined and the status of each. After receiving CADNA’s email, 33 members of Congress registered 82 of the previously available domain names that CADNA had identified.

“We are very pleased to have been able to decrease the opportunity for identity squatters to exploit the names of these members of Congress,” said Bourne, “We hope to continue to work with Congress to address identity squatting, as well as the broader issue of cybersquatting.”

The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA) is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the systemic domain name abuses that plague the Internet today. For more information, please visit