Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Conservatives Battle Hacktivists Over Their Link Shortener...

Here's a story that demonstrates how political conflict is converging with internet technology.

Earlier this week, the Republican Party, through their consultant firm, Political Media Inc., launched a URL shortening service. Basically, GOP.am takes long web addresses and lets users convert them into much shorter ones, which comes in handy when trying to share links on Twitter where the number of characters that can be included in a post is limited.

URL shortening services like the popular Bit.ly have been around for a while, and GOP.am simply emulates existing ones. The only difference is that GOP.am seeks to brand specific links with a conservative label.

Well, hardly any time went by before hacktivists sought to disrupt the service. They accomplished this by creating dozens of shortened conservative URLs for very un-conservative websites. For example, as Wired reports, when Republicans users would go to one GOP.am link, the resulting website featured a sex toy in the likeness of Barack Obama.

But not to be outdone, Political Media Inc. responded by first blocking those hijacked links and, going a step further, is now redirecting the hacktivists to GOP action pages.

Political Media president Larry Ward is quoted as saying this is all done "in the spirit of good-fun politics". I hope so. If the tone between the involved actors is playful, then this is a cute little sideshow story. But if it escalates into more destructive or nefarious activities, then that's an altogether different one.


*** As an ironic postscript, the shortened URL for this post is http://gop.am/DB3S ***
  

2 Comments:

At 1:13 PM, Blogger Dan said...

this is awesome! i will continue to use gop.am to "Make my long URLs... Conservative!" great stuff.

 
At 2:10 PM, Blogger Rob Domanski said...

Thanks for the positive feedback, Dan. I'm not so convinced that a political branding strategy that focuses so heavily on a URL shortener is necessarily going to be effective - precisely because it's so difficult to control - but it's an interesting effort nonetheless.

 

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