An Anti-Obama Dentist Just Bought Up the Best New Democrat Domain Names

He’s not a Democrat. He’s just outraged by the Affordable Care Act.

National Journal
Leo Mirani, Quartz
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Leo Mirani, Quartz
May 23, 2014, 7:05 a.m.

On Wed­nes­day (May 21), the .demo­crat top-level do­main (TLD) went on sale to the gen­er­al pub­lic. By the end of the day, Dr. Larry Kawa, an or­tho­dont­ist from Boca Raton, Fla., had bought up dozens of high-pro­file do­mains, in­clud­ing obama­care.demo­crat, medi­caid.demo­crat, and medi­care.demo­crat. He also pur­chased more gen­er­al do­mains, in­clud­ing usa.demo­crat, vote2016.demo­crat, amer­ica.demo­crat — and li­ar.demo­crat. (You can check who has re­gistered any do­main us­ing a WHOIS look­up.)

Kawa is not a Demo­crat. Out­raged by the the Af­ford­able Care Act, the Flor­ida dent­ist filed a law­suit (pdf) against the U.S. Treas­ury De­part­ment, the In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice, and their re­spect­ive heads. He also runs a num­ber of act­iv­ist web­sites, in­clud­ing theam­er­ic­an.net and thestateoftheunion.com. But he bought the do­mains be­cause “the right to pur­chase sites is em­blem­at­ic of free speech and I em­brace the op­por­tun­ity to do so,” he told Quartz, adding: “As the left has taken con­trol of the main­stream me­dia, I feel it is in­ter­est­ing that one in­di­vidu­al can ex­press them­selves on the In­ter­net.” Kawa says he hasn’t coun­ted how many do­mains he’s pur­chased, but that whatever the num­ber, it’s not enough. “I’ve bought more today and will con­tin­ue. I’m just get­ting star­ted,” he said.

The fine line between do­main-squat­ting and free speech

The fine line between domain-squatting and free speech

Top-level do­mains are the fi­nal bit in an In­ter­net ad­dress, like the .com in qz.com. Un­til last year, there were only 22 of these, such as .net, .gov and .org. Since Janu­ary, the web has ex­pan­ded, with new TLDs re­leased every week. The idea is to broaden and di­ver­si­fy the web with ad­dresses for every niche; from geo­graph­ic names like .nyc to pro­fes­sions like .plumb­ing, and from closed cor­por­ate ad­dresses like .kp­mg to open iden­tity-based ones like .army. (We ex­plained the rise of new TLDs in de­tail here.) The .demo­crat do­main is sold by Right­side, a com­pany formed to take ad­vant­age of new TLDs, and was neither sup­por­ted nor op­posed by the Demo­crat­ic party. (Neither Right­side not the Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee re­spon­ded to re­quests for com­ments.)

But the new TLD pro­gram wasn’t without con­tro­versy. Crit­ics wor­ried that it would re­quire cor­por­a­tions and in­sti­tu­tions to spend large sums of money buy­ing up hun­dreds of do­main names they neither de­sired nor needed in or­der to stop them be­ing ab­used. As a pre­cau­tion, IC­ANN in­tro­duced the ” sun­rise peri­od” for any new do­main: a 60-day time­frame dur­ing which trade­mark hold­ers could pick up do­main names be­fore they went on sale to the gen­er­al pub­lic.

This case is dif­fer­ent. Words like “li­ar” and “vote2016”³ are not trade­marked; neither is “demo­crat.” So long as Kawa doesn’t stoop to slander, he is with­in his rights to re­gister whatever do­main names he wishes to (though Right­side does have a policy against re­gis­ter­ing names that ri­dicule its em­ploy­ees). At the same time, it seems un­reas­on­able to ex­pect the Demo­crat­ic party to re­gister every single in­sult­ing word in the Eng­lish lan­guage as a pre­cau­tion against polit­ic­al op­pon­ents. As a res­ult, the do­main names may have the op­pos­ite ef­fect of what they set out to do, be­com­ing homes for trolls and act­iv­ists rather than en­thu­si­asts and sup­port­ers. In the next few months, it will get even ugli­er: open re­gis­tra­tion be­gins on Jun. 7 for the .gop do­main (pay­wall), and in Au­gust for the .re­pub­lic­an do­main.

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