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BofA Has Domain Shopping Spree Ahead of WikiLeaks Round

Leon Kaye | Monday December 27th, 2010 | 6 Comments

Whatever you think about WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, he is not going down–nor will he be extradited -quietly. The megalomaniac Internet activist has caused plenty of consternation, and a spike in antacid sales, for his release of US State Department cables and other confidential information that has revealed much about wars and events around the world.

Now WikiLeaks has hinted that it has a bevy of documents that will shine light on one major bank’s shenanigans before and during the financial crisis of the past two years. Financial institutions have responded in kind; Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal recently stopped handing transactions intended for WikiLeaks. Now Bank of America, which also stopped authorizing payments to WikiLeaks, is one bank that many assume will have its dirty laundry exposed when WikiLeaks releases its next data dump. BofA’s executives have denied they are a target, but they are preparing themselves anyhow with an internet shopping spree.

Bank of America has snatched up abusive domain names this past week. URLs tossed in the bank’s shopping cart include just about any of its directors or senior executive names followed by “sucks” or “blows.” Dozens were purchased on December 17th, a curious flurry of activity that showed that the bank assumed WikiLeaks and Assange were about to wreak more havoc the week before Christmas. The buyer: MarkMonitor, a firm that offers its services as a leader in “enterprise brand protection.”

MarkMonitor and Bank of America’s moves are hardly a new tactic. When George W. Bush ran for President in 2000, Karl Rove and his crew purchased heaps of domain names, including bushsux.com, bushblows.com, and bushbites.com. Apparently PR and marketing gurus are most concerned about any URL that ties their clients’ names to sux, sucks, blows, or bites: one journalist’s research found that other nasty words that have a far sharper bite were not snapped up.

What appears lost on BofA’s executives is that the time spent buying snarky URLs on GoDaddy.com – or whatever registry site on which brianmoynihanblows.com and other monikers that would embarrass the bank’s CEO and other senior managers – is that they shine a veneer of guilt on one of the United States’ largest banks. At the very least, it shows that BofA’s execs have a thin skin; at the worst, they show that the bank wants to stifle information and debate. The URL purchases are waste of time and money anyway, because if it is indeed true that BofA was a bogeyman of the financial crisis, plenty of media venues exist that will blare this story to no end.

While corporate social responsibility often focuses on environmental, labor, and social issues, this chapter reveals the least exotic, but often most important, facet of CSR: transparency. When it comes to crisis management, banks can look to politics for the most important lesson that too many of us can never seem to learn: the cover up is often worse than the actual crime. And in the age of social media, nothing, NOTHING can get swept under the rug.


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  • Robnoah

    Although the bank buys all the offending domains they will suffer the pains of Assange’s new revelations as they come to the surface in 2011.

  • Avery

    Whether BofA is guilty of anything, this seems like a pretty normal strategy for a big corporation. There are always irate weirdos out there who want to own “WalMartSucksTheDonkey” or whatever…

    Then again, there are so many variations (see above) that it might be a waste of time.

    Honesty is going to be the best policy here!

    • Scott Mattoon

      Worse than a waste of time. As Cory Doctorow wrote on BoingBoing:

      In a stunning tribute to the financial acumen of BofA’s C-suite, they seem to have missed the fact that total combinations of $FIRSTNAME/INITIAL + $LASTNAME + [blows|sucks|crook|thief|fraudster].[com|net|org|ws|info|cc|ca|ch|whatever] multiplied by, say, $5/domain/year exceeds the total capital reserves of the bank.

  • http://ellidavis.com Elli Davis

    Yes, I completely agree with you Avery. So it seems, there is no other way for corporations than being honest and keeping your actions clean right now. On the other hand, I wonder whether some of the sensitive documents will not be simply kept written on paper again.

  • http://www.canadainsuranceplan.ca/ Canada Insurance Plan

    The URL purchases are waste of time and money anyway, because if it
    is indeed true that BofA was a bogeyman of the financial crisis explains the reality itself but corporations responsiveness always matters.

  • http://twitter.com/CanadaInsures Travel Insurance Can

    All Corporations do this as a measure of protection against bad publicity for the Company and workers. It is an inexpensive way to protect their image as domain names are not that costly