Is Registering Coronavirus Related Domains Ethical

We are deep into the Coronavirus COVID-19 crisis. We don’t know when the peak is. Coronavirus is trending like crazy as people want to stay on top of the latest news. Is this the time for domainers to jump on the trend and register domains related to COVID-19 or Coronavirus? Number of mainstream registrars and domain marketplaces have stopped the registration or resale of Coronavirus domains. Are they trying to stifle free speech and expression? Or are there possibly ethical considerations? This is an unprecedented move. When we consider that we’re living in an unprecedented time, then you can understand why.

Facebook registered recently 500 domains that included Covid-19 related words plus “Facebook” (source). Why did they do that? It was a defensive move to protect spammers from using those domains in order to spread false information and spoof people that are more vulnerable than usual due to hightened anxiety.

Spammers, criminals, and other unscrupulous people jump on crises such as the current one to extort money and spread false information. They are adept at spoofing or mimicking legitimate authoritative websites in order to further their dark agenda. Innocent people, especially the elderly, can easily become their victims.

Domainers don’t have such intentions. But they are quick to jump on trending topics, whether on social media or the news, and register domains on the topic. Hoping that the popularity of a subject will help sell related domains. The temptation is to register Coronavirus domains. As an example, here are such domains on Afternic. Now, if you register such a domain and use it to post links and info from authoritative websites then I don’t see a problem with that. We have done this on our website, Smart Living Now. But, if you register a Coronavirus/COVID-19 domain simply to resell at a profit, here are the problems I see with that.

Trying to Profit from a Pandemic

Domaining is a legitimate business. However, there are misconceptions about domaining that we need to shake. Whenever you try to profit from a pandemic or any other disaster, it will naturally lead to public rebuke and further even more those misconceptions. I am all for capitalism and free enterprise. But to profit from human suffering just doesn’t sit well. It is repugnant. This is the time to stand together and do all we can to help our neighbor. Not gouge them for a domain just registered, if that domain can be put to good use.

Propagating False Information and Spam

The main reason certain registrars and marketplaces prevent the registration and sale of Coronavirus/COVID-19 domains is to stop them from landing into the hands of spammers and criminals (the line between the two is very blurred). You may justify your registration of such a domain as that you are keeping it from being registered for nefarious purpose. But if you end up selling it, how do you know it won’t go to a criminal? Such individuals are very smart at hiding true identity and presenting themselves as someone else.

Preventing Domains from Legitimate Use

Economic times are increasingly getting more difficult. Someone may want to register a domain for altruistic purpose, not for profit, to help others. By you registering that domain and putting it for sale for hundreds or thousands of dollars takes it away from people and organizations that otherwise could register it at hand-reg price and use it for humanitarian means. But the aftermarket price puts it out of their budget.

Limited Shelf-life

This crisis will end. Life will go on. How much it will change as a result remains to be seen. Like 9/11, Coronavirus will eventually be in the rear-view mirror. Other trends will take its place. Registering these domains is extremely short-sighted. Most of the related sales I’ve seen have been for generic domains like washing hands, sanitizing, health, virus (generic), etc. These topics are important during the current pandemic, but they will always remain relevant even afterwards.

As a domainer, look for ways you can contribute to the solution. Not stand in the way. In business, image is important. That’s why companies are contributing medical protective supplies and doing other things to help. It builds community camaraderie and shows the humanity behind the corporation. Then, if you have a domain someone wants, they want be pissed off so much because of the price.

What do you think? Feel free to post your comments below.

2 thoughts on “Is Registering Coronavirus Related Domains Ethical

  • April 4, 2020 at 7:38 pm
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    Registrars are NOT supposed to be the arbiters of ethics. Its not their job and it’s not plausible for anyone tp do what is or is not ethical is a subjective personal decision.

    Reply
    • April 4, 2020 at 8:42 pm
      Permalink

      I don’t know if they are being arbiters (I’m not condoning nor condemning their decision) but each company wants to protect themselves from repercussions of nefarious use of their services. There is already plenty of authoritative information available, whether on national or international level, from federal, local, and medical sources. If you have a legitimate and helpful purpose for the domain related to a current pandemic, then you should be able to register it. At the same time, you can understand the insurmountable job of vetting each and every domain registered for Coronavirus. This is a very confusing and unprecedented time. Everyone, from governments and medical professionals down to individuals, are learning how to deal with this trying time.

      Reply

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