A real-name domain registration policy would discourage political lying
I discussed the role of the internet in creating and spreading lies in a previous postnoting that Donald Trump lied more frequently than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders during the campaign.
Now let’s look at fake news like the claim that Pope Francis endorsed Trump. The fake post features the following image and includes a “statement” from the pope in which he explains his decision.
The message was obviously from the website of a fake news station, WTO 5. Greed, not politics, appears to be the motivation for the site since it’s covered in ads and links to other “stories” that attack both Clinton and Trump.
WTOE 5 states that this is a satirical site about their on page, but how many readers see this? Other sites do not claim satire. For example, the Christian Times on says nothing about satire, but asserts that they are not responsible for any action taken by a reader:
The Christian Times newspaper is your premier online source for news, commentary, opinion and theory. The Christian Times newspaper assumes no responsibility for the actions of our readers that may result from reading our stories. We do our best to provide accurate and up-to-date news and information.
The Christian Times’ “editorial” policy is similar to that of the WTOE 5: they published pre-election reporting on thousands of dead voters in Florida, the Clinton campaign’s hacking of electoral systems, Black Panther patrols on election sites, etc. at the end of the election, they informed us that Hillary Clinton had filed for divorce. You do not believe it ? Here are their testimonials:
Given that the WTOE 5 purports to be a satire or that the Christian Times avoids responsibility for actions taken by readers, I suspect that unless Pope Francis or Hillary Clinton sue, there is no legal recourse .
The dirty tricks in this election remind me of the Watergate heist, but unlike Watergate, it is not clear that any law was broken. In the Watergate case, a crime was committed and the burglars were convicted and sent to prison in 1973. In 1974, investigators were able to link the White House to the burglary and, under threat of a impeachment, President Nixon resigned.
Would it be possible to establish a link between a site like “WTOE 5 News” and the Trump campaign?
A Whois query shows us that the domain name wto5news.com was recorded by DomainsByProxy.com. We can see the address, contact details and names of people at DomainsByProxy.combut the identity of the person or organization registering the domain name is private.
I also checked the Christian Times Whois record. Actually DomainsByProxy.com is also the Registrar of Christiantimesnewspaper.com and registration is also private.
I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect that a subpoena requesting contact information for a long list of people registering domain names for misleading websites would be considered a “fishing expedition” by the courts.
I understand the desire to protect the privacy of a person or organization registering a domain name, but there is also a public interest in discouraging sites like wto5news.com. A verifiable real-name policy for domain registration would discourage this sort of thing. Well, one of the first community bulletin board systems, adopted such a policy years ago. Their slogan is “own your own words“and it serves to keep the discussion civil, to stop bullying and lying, etc.
Trump supporters seem to be very concerned about voter fraud. They advocate for flexible mechanisms for challenging a voter’s registration and encourage strict requirements for proof of identity and residency. There is more evidence of blatantly fraudulent political information on the Internet than fraudulent voting. If their concern is real, they should support a real name policy for domain registration.
If warrants do not comply with the law and a real-name policy is unrealistic, someone might be tempted to follow the example of Trump supporters who hacked into the Democratic National Committee and resort to office hacking. registration to obtain the contact details of their private clients. Perhaps Julian Assange could release what they find on WikiLeaks.