Internet trickery to help push the vote? (ANWR related)
While it's long been a popular move by individuals and corporations seeking an edge in today's Internet-aware economy to grab domain names that might be accessed by individuals who either mistype a URL or aren't aware of the proper URL (example: www.whitehouse.com is a porn site while www.whitehouse.gov is the legitimate home page of the United States White House) in an attempt to gain exposure or business, it hasn't been up until now that this tactic has been used in addition to loading the website in such a way that search engines such as Google will return them as the most likely hit and appear as if it was the genuine article.
In light of the recent debate in regards to the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, some folks might be interested in learning more about this national treasure. With the popularity of Google these days, some people might be intrigued to find that the first hit when searching Google for "ANWR" takes them to a site that advocates the proposal to drill for oil within the site. Intrigued? So was I.It turns out that one of the major supporters of the bill to drill for oil in the ANWR is a non-profit organization founded in 1992 called "Arctic Power." Their stated purpose is "to expedite congressional and presidential approval of oil exploration and production within the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." In their bid to generate public support for the plan they registered the domain ANWR.ORG, and set up their website at www.anwr.org. This is the location they use to post information and material in support of the drilling bill.
The real website for the ANWR is hosted by the US Fish and Wildlife service at http://arctic.fws.gov/.
While Arctic Power is well within their rights to operate their website under whatever domain they choose, I found the way it was being presented to be a touch underhanded. It is very likely that the average individual going to the site will not take a deep enough look to see that it is in fact not the "official" website of the refuge. The ANWR site run by Arctic Power is the first two to three hits on Google for the terms "ANWR," "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge" and "Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge." The Fish & Wildlife website is nowhere to be found within the first 50 hits (I did not search beyond that). However, it should be noted that websites hosted by the National Wildlife Federation and other anti-drilling sites are within the first ten to twenty results, depending upon search terms used.
I think what we are seeing here is the first real use of Internet presence and technology that many users don't think to question as a method to present their side of the issue first, and in such a way as to make it seem to the "official" stance.
Let this be a warning to all: don't take things on blind faith just because the URL looks right. Check the facts that are being presented, and see if perhaps they're being influenced by those who are presenting them.