One thing that businesses do, regularly and aggressively, is brand protection. Some are more picky about it than others, but guarding trademarks and branding is a big deal in the corporate world. Since the rise of the world wide web, one method of brand protection is through the purchase of domain names.
The current resident of the White House has used his name as his brand for virtually his entire career in business. “TRUMP” garishly adorns everything from hotels to apartment buildings to the airplanes and helicopters owned by the Trump Organization. So it was to be expected that Donald Trump’s business would seek to purchase domain names using the word “Trump” as a means of guarding their brand. But, as CNN recently found out, Trump has gone well beyond brand protection and has purchased domains that could have been used for websites critical of him.
You would expect Trump to own domains such as DonaldJTrump.com, or TrumpOrganization.com. But in addition to those names, Trump also owns domains with names like TrumpFraud.org and TrumpScam.com. In all, according to CNN’s report, he owns over 3,000 domain names. Most of them do not contain active websites; they are simply “parked,” meaning the domain name is not available for use by someone who may want to create a real, functioning site.
The Washington Post adds that Trump has made sure to protect names connected to his family members as well. One day after Ivanka gave birth to her son Theodore last year the Trump Organization registered three domain names with various forms of Theodore’s name.
CNN did not receive a reply to their request for comment from the White House, but Trump Organization spokeswoman Amanda Miller told them,
“Unfortunately cyber squatting, publishing false content and the use of ‘negative’ domain names is a serious issue facing all large companies around the world. We take the protection of our corporate identity and our intellectual property very seriously… this includes trademarking both positive and negative domain names and taking firm legal action when necessary to protect our name and intellectual property.”
Fair enough. But Trump’s domain name grab appears to be as much about shielding himself from criticism as it is about protecting his brand. In 2012, when he began flirting with a presidential run, Trump grabbed the domains TrumpMustGo.com, NoMoreTrump.com, and VoteAgainstTrump.com. Then, just before announcing his candidacy in 2015, he bought MakeAmericaGreatAgain.vote and MakeAmericaGreatAgain.us.
So what should we make of this? Trump’s name grab is yet another example of his incredibly thin skin. The names of many of the domains he has purchased paints a portrait of a man who simply can’t stand to be criticized. That’s one thing if you’re a private citizen, but quite another if you’re president, where criticism comes with the job. The fact that many of these purchases occurred long before his 2016 presidential run show the lengths to which he is willing to go to silence his potential critics.
Buying up negative domain names is also reminiscent of a dictator shutting down opposition media outlets and it goes hand in hand with Trump’s constant bashing of the media for simply doing their job. Trump needs to figure out that the way you deal with your critics is by listening to their concerns and engaging in dialog with them, not by taking steps to stifle dissent before it even occurs.