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Hostile website domain names

Shell in their sights …. Royal Dutch Shell online critics John and Alfred Donovan outside the Shell Centre in London October 2009. Photograph: Graham Turner for Guardian newspaper article

By John Donovan

An article published in the Financial Times on 12 January 2012 reported that the Blackstone Group has been using a brand protection firm MarkMonitor to quietly register “hostile web domain names in an attempt to head off online criticism…

The domain names registered predictably include blackstonesucks.com.

MarkMonitor declined to comment or deny that Blackstone is a client, but claimed that “defensive registration” is very common with major brands.

According to MarkMonitor: “Every business needs to protect their brand online. Powerful brands are valuable assets that are particularly vulnerable in the digital world.”

The concern is over what a related article has described as “brand-bashers“.

The website hereisthecity said in another related article: “Firms that are at the center of any form of controversy or, face possible public ire, often protect themselves in this way.”

A Reuters article on the same subject contains a quote from Blackstone spokesman, Peter Rose who claims: “This is a routine defensive move to protect ourselves. Any company that is in the public eye will take similar measures.

Unfortunately for Royal Dutch Shell, when it tried in 2005 to register the top level domain name for the merged company – Royal Dutch Shell Plc as a defensive measure – it found that its most prominent long-term online critics had beaten them to the .com registration.

In June 2006, Shell appointed a digital agency with experience in turning around corporate reputations. The headline is self-explanatory: “Shell seeks agency for online makeover“. The brief issued by Shell web communications division in The Hague, included online branding.

Despite Shell’s best efforts, Royaldutchshellplc.com has become the effective “gripe” site in the world and has genuinely cost Shell billions of dollars. Sounds like a wild claim, but it is a provable fact.

Shell unsuccessfully attempted to seize the domain name.

Our subsequent activities have been so damaging to Shell that it set up a global operation spying on our website and its own employees. This was an unsuccessful effort to stop Shell insider information from being leaked to us.

There have been numerous media articles relating to our website. A search for “royaldutchshellplc.com” on ft.com reveals a list of articles, the majority based on information about Shell leaked to us and passed to the FT.

Some articles on this subject

Blackstone turns hostile on website names

Top Firm Takes Action Against ‘Suckers’

Some related articles about our online activities…

Prospect Magazine: Rise of the Gripe Site

The Guardian: 92-year-old’s website leaves oil giant Shell-shocked


CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE

PDF VERSION OF GUARDIAN ARTICLE

The Sunday Times: Two men and a website mount vendetta against Shell”


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