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A few months ago, an Oregon judge ruled that Crystal Cox, a self-proclaimed blogger, was not media under the First Amendment and entitled to protection from libel lawsuits. Bloggers everywhere cried foul, as did many lawyers. What’s now clear, thanks to the same judge’s order denying Cox’s motion for a new trial, is that, whatever else she may be, Cox is running a protection racket. First, she ruins someone’s online reputation by posting false and defamatory—but very well-optimized for search—stuff. Then she offers to “fix” their reputation for a steep monthly fee.
One key part of her modus operandi is buying domains based on her victims’ names—and possibly even family members’ names. For example, she might buy GeorgeCostanza.com, if she thought George Costanza was vulnerable enough and wealthy enough to pay her off. That makes it easy to “win” the SEO game for that person’s name.
Fortunately, there’s an easy roadblock you can throw up for Cox or “bloggers” like her: buy YourName.com. It costs $10 a year to buy a domain name, which is a heckuva lot cheaper than the $2,500 per month Cox was asking from Kevin Padrick and Obsidian Finance Group. Here’s how to do it. Got to the domain host of your choice (we use Hover.com, but you can use GoDaddy or NameCheap or a bunch of others). Make sure you can buy your name (no hyphens), and buy it. It doesn’t hurt to include the .net and .org extensions, but definitely get the .com, if you can.
It’s no guarantee you will never fall victim to an online reputation protection racket, but it’s a good way to make it difficult to target your reputation.