Staff for Rep. Ed Perlmutter got a big surprise when they discovered that an old campaign website for the Democrat’s successful bid for the 7th Congressional District suddenly began sprouting images like the one above and peddling adult ads with pitches like “Real Sex Dating” and “Watch Gay Movies Online.”
But had the lawmaker's website been “hijacked” by “porn pirates” who then held the site for ransom, as characterized by the Rocky Mountain News? Evidently not. For as the article by reporter Chris Barge continues, it becomes clear to the reader that the Perlmutter site -- perlmutter2006.com -- had never been hacked, infiltrated or ripped from the loving clutches of campaign spokesman Scott Chase. Instead, when it came time to renew the domain name, the registration was allowed to expire.
This is an important distinction, because once a domain name is back on the open market it can be registered by anyone. This includes Sergey Mokav, who is listed as purchasing the address earlier this year through registrar GoDaddy.com. In the world of the web, traffic equals cash -- and entrepreneurs like Mokav earn their pay by snatching up abandoned or unused websites and using them to drive traffic to advertisers.
As the Denver Post reported, Mokav then enrolled the site with Sedo, a Massachusetts-based domain name “brokerage” company that is also considered one of the largest providers within the website “parking” industry.
“If you have registered domain names, but they are not currently being used,” the Sedo website explains, “then domain parking is a great way to put those domains to work earning you revenue.”
A single client might have hundreds or thousands of defunct domains enrolled with Sedo. A quick web search shows that Perlmutter isn’t the only one whose old website was purchased by Mokav to push porn and other products. But to assume that Mokav (likely a fake name, anyway) is a producer of the smut is like calling Tattered Cover bookstore owner Joyce Meskis a pornographer because her stores stock Playboy and Penthouse. Mokav and his ilk are more like virtual pamphleteers trying to get passersby to check out a skin show. For each click they get a small commission, which can add up to big bucks with enough parked websites.
Interestingly, the former Perlmutter site also included links for “Meet Israel Guys Today” and “Yads (Torah Pointers).” It could have been worse. Perlmutter could’ve found himself inadvertently endorsing scads of nasty rape porn, as Westword discovered was the case with dozens of University of Colorado at Denver students last year. But in the UCD case, webpages were actually hacked, whereas the Perlmutter domain was technically a legal sale. Staffers balked at the $1,200 price tag to buy back the domain, but after several cease-and-desist letters and angry phone calls to Sedo, they were able to get the site scrubbed clean.
Take that, porn pirates. -- Jared Jacang Maher
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.