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The Non-Story of BarackOsama2008.org

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, December 20 2007

Someone is trying to play a trick on the press, to the detriment of both the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns.

Two days ago, we at techPresident got a call from a top reporter about the curious fact that urls like BarackOsama2008.org and Osama2008.org point to the same IP address that hosts HillaryClinton.com. The question was if this showed the Clinton campaign was planning some kind of attack, and yesterday pro-Obama blogger Andrew Sullivan posted a short item saying the connection looked "pretty fishy" to him.

Well, it's a non-story. Someone is trying to make the Clinton campaign look bad, and they're taking advantage of the fact that you can point any domain at anyone else's IP address. The offending sites are registered to different owners and use different IP addresses for their primary domains and name servers than the Clinton campaign. Sullivan ran a follow-up item making this point.

This non-incident, however, raises a serious point. Thanks to the Internet, there are all kinds of new games campaigns can play on each other now, and given the pressure to be first with a story, all kinds of new dangers that a misunderstanding about how the web works will turn into a serious political story.

The archetype for this, of course, was the false allegation that the Ned Lamont campaign or bloggers associated with it had somehow hacked the Joe Lieberman website on the eve of their August 2006 primary in the Connecticut Senate race. The cable news shows ran with the story, even though there was no evidence for the charge, and they clearly implied the Lamont forces were to blame. A later investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office and the state Attorney General found no evidence of any criminal conduct, tampering or sabotage.

That was just a heated Senate primary. What will happen around the first caucuses and primaries of 2008?