Following the tragic passing of animal activist and TV-personality Steve Irwin, a website using daughter Bindi’s name popped up with anti-Israel and Australian Federal Government links, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. Domain names with references to several federal politicians and anti-Israel messages automatically redirected users to www.bindiirwin.com. All the domain names, including www.terriirwin.org and www.bindisueirwin.com, were registered to the same Wayne Smith of Brisbane, Australia and set up within just hours of Steve Irwin’s death. Fans and internet users were asked not to give the website any traffic. After Mr. Smith received publicity in the matter, he denied being a “cybersquatter” – a person who buys famous domain names in order to make a profit – and offered to transfer ownership to Irwin’s widow, Terri Irwin, for free.
“I’ve been advised by several people that I can make serious money from this domain and that I even have a convincing case in court to retain it. I won’t be doing that. Taking an eight-year-old to court over a domain name that I only payed $6.95 for is simply not my style. It’s only drawing interest because of her fame anyway … The main reason I purchased it was to keep it out of the hands of advertising agencies,” Mr. Smith claimed.
While the site appeared to contain information, news, and chats dedicated to Bindi Irwin, one of the chat discussions, started by site administrator “Wayne,” contained anti-Semitic messages.
Australian authorities were outraged by the content, but since it was a “.com” website instead of a “.com.au” website, they did not have the ability to deregister the domain name.
News agencies that tried to contact Mr. Smith directly through the phone number he used when he registered he domains discovered that it went through to a business unrelated to him or his sites.
According to Joshua Smith, director of Gold Coast online marketing company iOnline, Mr. Smith had in fact bought multiple domains utilizing the names of “celebrities, scientists, politicians and competing websites… [He] is benefiting from ‘type-in’ traffic and high search engine rankings by creating keyword-rich title tags and meta data in connection with these domains and by creating misleading inbound links to these sites on Wikipedia and elsewhere.
Since all of the domains redirect to a single Bindi Irwin fansite, his actions are misleading to the casual web surfer and to those who stumble across his links in search engines or Wikipedia.” All three domain names containing Steve Irwin’s family’s names now lead directly to the official website for Australia Zoo at http://www.australiazoo.com.au/ .