When it comes to elections, the hottest place for real estate is online.
Australian political parties compete to register web domains which they use to direct voters to information about themselves and their opponents. Although social media and search engines have made domains less important, they remain a rare commodity for parties hoping to register certain terms.
Earlier this week it was revealed that the Liberal Party had registered albanese.com.au and directed it to their own party’s website.
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It did not take long for the Australian web domain industry body .au Domain Administration (auDA) to deregister because the domain did not match the registrant details (i.e. the Liberal Party had no legitimate reason to claim albanese.com.au as its own).
This was an unusual move by auDA. There is a long tradition of political parties squatting the names of their opponents and auDA very rarely intervenes.
Realistically, not owning yourname.com.au is more of a minor frustration than a real electoral hurdle. Asked about albanese.com.au, Anthony Albanese himself stressed that he was unlikely to mislead voters: “As if someone looking up my website was going to say, ‘Oh, that’s the same than the Liberal Party website.”
Albanese also said the registration of albanese.com.au was a “test of integrity for Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party”. It is unclear whether he knows his own party owns domains such as NSWLiberals.com.au and MatthewGuy.net.au.
In fact, Australia’s two major political parties have registered hundreds of domains, ranging from the obvious to the obscure. Both have endless variations of their own names, such as TNL’s libn.at. They also register the names of their politicians, candidates and branches, where voters can go to find out more information about them.
Parties also proactively buy negative domains to prevent their opponents from registering them. The National Liberal Party has registered domains such as lnpfails.com.au, putlnplast.org.au and lnpcuts.org.au.
One of the main uses of web domains is to create standalone campaigns. Some are for specific issues like laborsbetterfuture.com.au. Others are for more specialist stunts like getagoodjobthatpaysgoodmoneyinjoehockeysoffice.org, a Labor reference to former treasurer Joe Hockey’s gaffe of telling first-time home buyers to “get a good job”.
These areas could offer clues to future campaign slogans. After an election defeat in 2020, the National Liberal Party of Queensland has registered towards 2024.online – a reference to the upcoming state elections in 2024 and a slogan used by deputy leader David Janetzki.
Parties are even using them to run underhanded campaigns that may not be obviously associated with them, such as South Australia Labour’s ChangeSA.org.au, which has been accused of mimicking the change.org petition platform.
Political party domain records offer clues to political party plans and messages. that’s why Crikey is to reveal what they possess.
Agreement Crikey’s Australian political party domain registry
Crikey publishes a list of web domains that have been registered using the names of Australia’s major political parties.
One of the main protocols on the Internet is the WHOIS protocol, which provides information about a domain, including who registered it, where to send Internet traffic for that domain, and when the details were last modified.
Anyone can perform a WHOIS search on any website for free (here Crikey). It’s like using a flashlight in a dark room: you can point it at one thing at a time to see it.
There are other commercial tools that allow people to search a comprehensive WHOIS database. It’s like a light switch that lights up the whole room so you can scan it for whatever you’re looking for.
Using one of these tools, Crikey found 1156 domains that listed their registrants with names such as “Liberal National Party”, “Liberal Party of Australia”, or “Australian Labor Party”.
A few notes on data limitations. WHOIS data relies on people who voluntarily provide their information when registering a domain, information that is not verified. This means that it is susceptible to being manipulated by someone, either by listing false details or by not including any.
Besides, Crikey’s The list of domains is based on the use of the three search terms listed above. This means that even properly registered domains that include typos (alp.org.au is registered with the “Australian Labor [sic] Party”) or registered with alternative bodies (domperrottet.com.au is registered with “Bunori Pty Ltd”, a business associated with the NSW Liberal Party) would not be included.
Many of these domains are not linked to active websites. This could be because the website is no longer working for old campaigns or because they haven’t been set up yet, if they ever will be.
Given these limitations, Crikey’s The Australian Political Party Domain Registry shows the cyber real estate that the two major parties have taken over.
Click here to see Crikey’s Australian political party domain registry.