Last week, we looked at the stunt pulled by anti-Brexit campaign group Led By Donkeys, who purchased www.thebrexitparty.com and used it to lampoon Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage. It looks unlikely that Farage will pay the asking price for the domain requested by the group, which now stands at over £1.6m.
Now, another politician has been punished for not registering a domain name quickly enough, but this time it’s not a campaign group that’s got in there first, but a rival candidate.
The constituency of Derby South has been led by Labour MP Margaret Beckett since 1983, but her Conservative rival Ed Barker spotted that she had not set up her own website. He therefore bought www.margaretbeckett.com himself, using it to encourage residents not to vote for her, and attack her party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Speaking to The Independent, Beckett accused the Conservatives of “dirty tricks” and labelled the move as “a bit pathetic”.
Is this ethical?
In what is turning out to be one of the most bitterly contested elections in recent times, this is the latest in a long line of online tactics that some voters will see as being underhand.
The Conservatives have already come under fire from some quarters for rebranding one of their Twitter accounts as ‘factcheckUK’ during a televised debate, and Facebook has pulled one of the party’s adverts following a complaint from the BBC that it used edited footage from the broadcaster.
The Labour Party hasn’t been immune from criticism either, and could be seen to have created a gaffe by unveiling a pro-minority groups video that failed to mention the Jewish community. Also, during a Channel 4 climate debate last week, Corbyn walked straight into a joke by holding up a paper manifesto on the environment, prompting host Krishnan Guru-Murthy to quip “you didn’t need to print it, I could have looked it up online.”
The electorate will decide for themselves whether these tactics and omissions are fair game, but none of them are illegal. In a fiercely fought battle like this, politicians have to cover their backs at every opportunity, and this includes being quick to snap up domains and set up websites.