Twitter.org Being Used For Scams, Twitter Seeks To Gain Control Of Rogue Domain

Too bad Twitter didn’t originally register “Twitter.org” as well. It would have saved the company from the headache of trying to gain control of the domain, which is now being used to conduct scam surveys of people who unwittingly arrive thinking they’re at Twitter.com.

The Twitter.org site is set up to intentionally create confusion and make it appear that the actual Twitter is conducting a survey and giving away prizes. The look and feel of the landing page replicates Twitter’s earlier design and branding. Fusible.com first reported this story.

Twitter has filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization to wrest control of Twitter.org. As a condition of registering any domain owners must submit to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (URDP), which allows for binding arbitration.

Here’s what people see if they type Twitter.org into the browser URL bar:

The domain redirects to a number of different URLs, such as http://quizzerist.net and http://chosurvey.net, which are privately registered. Users who realize they’ve made a mistake and try to leave are redirected to zbiddy, a penny auction site which is also alleged to be a scam or fraudulent site.

Clicking on any of the prize or incentive links in the survey solicitation leads to pages like this:

Trademark owners can file a complaint with WIPO under the URDP and “defendants” must submit to the proceedings and respond or risk default. Here’s how the procedure works:

In the event that a trademark holder considers that a domain name registration infringes on its trademark, it may initiate a proceeding under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). Under the standard dispute clause of the Terms and Conditions for the registration of a gTLD domain name, the registrant must submit to such proceedings.

The UDRP permits complainants to file a case with a resolution service provider, specifying, mainly, the domain name in question, the respondent or holder of the domain name, the registrar with whom the domain name was registered and the grounds for the complaint. Such grounds include, as their central criteria, the way in which the domain name is identical or similar to a trademark to which the complainant has rights; why the respondent should be considered as having no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name that is the subject of the complaint; and why the domain name should be considered as having been registered and used in bad faith.

The respondent is offered the opportunity to defend itself against the allegations. The provider (e.g., the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center) appoints a panelist who decides whether or not the domain(s) should be transferred.

There’s almost zero chance that Twitter won’t succeed in taking control of Twitter.org. It’s quite possible the domain registrant of Twitter.org won’t even respond given that there may be consumer fraud involved and to come forward might mean to risk investigation and potential criminal prosecution.

Accordingly it’s only a matter of time before Twitter gains control of the rogue domain.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Legal: Copyright & Trademark | Top News | Twitter | Twitter: Business Issues | Twitter: Legal

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://www.esocialmedia.com Jerry Nordstrom

    Let me take a counter view to this Greg. I have not reviewed with full process that Twitter.org takes one through as I didnt want to be hit with all sorts of tagging. As far as I can tell they are a tacky survey site which is really a way to generate data lists. Annoying and a PIMA, but illegal? Not always.

    The only thing I see here as an attempt to confuse is the use of the same font and color scheme. That said take a close look at LinkedIn, Twitter and the new MySpace.com. Pretty damn similar in my view. Is LinkedIn squatting on Twitter’s design? Did Facebook not copy MySpace? If twitter.org simply changed the Font and made sure they had the proper disclosures regarding the survey and their company I see no legal reason they should not be able to continue using their domain name.

    Twitter.org registered their domain name: Created On:03-Oct-2005 18:56:34 UTC
    And although twitter.com was registered in 2000, the company and its famous service was not established until 2006!

    So although I am no advocate of the style of “service” twitter.org is putting forth I am very concerned about any company’s ability to claim a domain name just because they feel it interferes with their business. Its a slippery slope whereby large companies can crush any competition by taking their domain names away.

  • Gijsbert Oord

    They forgot to register Twitter.nl as well.

  • http://twitter.com/gsterling Greg Sterling

    Fair enough . . . perhaps if the site were clearly distinguished from the current Twitter it would be more acceptable. But there’s clearly an effort to confuse people and benefit from that confusion by using the Twitter brand to confer credibility or legitimacy on the survey and associated links. Also there may be some illegality in the underlying, associated companies (perhaps affiliates) and their various schemes. Not 100% sure there but lots of shady stuff going on.

  • http://www.socialbakers.com/ Michal Smetana

    I’m very much looking forward how this dispute turns out. I think, though, that Twitter will be the winner of this…

  • http://www.sagerock.com/blog Sage Lewis

    I’m sure this is something that Mechanical Turk can solve. It’s pretty much a CAPTCHA problem.

  • http://davezan.com/ Dave Zan

    @Nordstrom:disqus & @twitter-2575811:disqus – if anything, the one behind Twitter.org is “riding” on Twitter’s popularity and trademark rights that many countries’ IP laws don’t allow. While the .org could’ve been used for anything else (even non-commercial if ever), what it does now is what’ll give it problems.

    Besides, the administrative proceeding Twitter.com filed for has certain standards it must meet. It’d be shocking if Twitter.com doesn’t satisfy them.

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