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Donuts makes six-figure .news sale to dangerous conspiracy theorist

Kevin Murphy, July 12, 2018, 16:53:24 (UTC), Domain Registries

Donuts has sold a package of “platinum” .news domains to a network of dubious news sites peddling what many describe as dangerous pseudo-scientific nonsense.

A company called WebSeed acquired science.news, food.news, health.news, medicine.news, pollution.news, cancer.news and climate.news from the registry for an undisclosed sum in the six-figure range last December, Donuts said.

It appears that the same buyer has acquired several other presumably non-platinum .news domains, including vaccines.news, nutrients.news, menshealth.news and emergencymedicine.news

The sites have already been developed, incorporating a back catalog of “news” content from other sites under the same ownership, and Donuts reckons searches for “climate news” and “science news” already return the matching domains prominently (they don’t for me, but Google can be fickle).

Unfortunately, the domains seem to have been sold to a leading purveyor of misinformation and conspiracy theories.

That’s right, climate.news now belongs to a climate change denier, vaccines.news belongs to an anti-vaxxer, and medicine.news belongs to somebody who values alternative remedies over science-based medicine.

As far as I can tell, pretty much all of the content on the network of .news domains comes from Natural News, the controversial site owned by “Health Ranger” Mike Adams.

Natural News has been fingered as an “empire of misinformation” and a leading contributor to the “fake news” crisis that has been blighting society for the last few years.

Check out climate.news today to be treated to Adams’ theory that climate change is nothing but a conspiracy peddled by the UN and the mainstream media.

Over on vaccines.news, you’ll find a scaremongering story about how the measles vaccine has killed more people than measles over the last decade.

(Gee, I wonder why measles isn’t killing anyone any more? Could it be that we have a fucking vaccine?).

On medicine.news, Adams himself writes of “PROOF that vaccines target blacks for depopulation”.

And at pollution.news, you’ll find any number of articles discussing the “chemtrails” conspiracy theory.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not scientifically literate enough to debunk most of the content on these sites, but I know quackery when I see it.

Donuts’ press release goes to suspicious pains to point out that the sites’ content is “thoroughly researched” and advertising is “limited and relevant to the sites’ content”.

In fact, the advertising seems in most if not all cases to lead back to Adams’ own stores, where he sells stuff like water purifiers, dietary supplements and alternative medicines.

The Donuts press release also quotes the founder and CEO of WebSeed, one “Mike Texas”.

Now, I have absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Mr Texas is not a real person.

But.

Whois records (remember those?) show that the original registrant of science.news was one Mike Adams of WebSeed LLC, and WebSeed.com, while under privacy for some years, was originally registered to Adams’ Taiwan-based company.

It goes without saying that Donuts, as a neutral registry, is under no obligation whatsoever to police content on the domains it sells. That would be a Bad Thing.

But I can’t help but feel that .news has the potential to take a big credibility hit due to the content of these sites.

Imagine a fox, buying up all the good .henhouse domains. It’s a bit like that.

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Comments (30)

  1. John says:

    All you are doing here is demonstrating your own pc bias, bigotry and ignorance. Have always had a bad feeling about you.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Do explain.

      • John says:

        It doesn’t get any more self-evident so no need to jump through phony hoops for you.

      • John says:

        It is possible, however, that you don’t even know what your current condition is. You may just be dupe. Where you are there is even no such thing as free speech anymore.

        • Kevin Murphy says:

          If we’re going to talk about this, you may need to specify which angle you’re coming at it from. You anti-vax? Climate denier? Where do think I’m erring?

          • JZ says:

            sadly the internet is full of these types of loons.

            as for the domains, all it does it makes the .news extension worthless and ensure no reputable news source would use it.

            • John says:

              You mean dismissive bigots who think putting a negative label on something is the best trump card, JZ? Yes, sadly you are so right.

          • John says:

            Are you really that obtuse, Kevin? I suppose it is humanly possible, but then again do review the famous scene in “The Shawshank Redemption” where the main character asks the prison warden how he could be that “obtuse.” But for the benefit of the readers, as you have so blatantly demonstrated above it does not begin with the various “news” subjects of publication themselves, but rather first with you demonstrating how biased, bigoted, ad hominem and dismissive you are. As for the various subjects themselves, spending the months, years or decades it would take to cover all the material out there is not even relevant here, but it’s certainly out there for genuinely honest minded readers to find. And now apparently some of it may also be on some nice new .news domains.

            But thanks for trying to frame the issue here according to your desired spin, and congratulations on being so loyal to main stream media…

            • DI Lurker says:

              WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS. Seriously. Do you have a point here John? Because I’m not sure anyone besides you has any idea what it might be.

            • John says:

              Dl Lurker – epic troll fail (you)

  2. Snoopy says:

    It probably just reinforces the viewpoint most already have about ntlds.

    • John says:

      LOL – you talking about the general public, who doubtless still scarcely know ntlds exist? In the US even scarcely anybody even knows .us itself exists after so many years. If they knew “.news” existed I’m confident they would actually like that one.

  3. It’s funny how often polite requests for empirical evidence are met with meaningless replies.

  4. rathead says:

    no better way to resign these idiots to oblivion than to give them a location on a new gtld.
    nuff said.

  5. Larry Scott says:

    When i type “health news” their domain health.news show up on the 1st page. News websites have taken a severe hit with the Russians and Cambridge Analytica and the president rhetorics. The websites this guy is creating will further hurt this industry. The only site I go to now to read any sort of news is TheOutline.

  6. kim says:

    lol… the world feels like such a safer place now with you spinning nonsense like this. “dangerous conspiracy theorist” haha… hint: MSM is Fake News and that’s a “conspiracy fact” if you’ve bothered to stray from your cave for the past few years. A for effort tho – hope you get lots of clicks with that one. how about letting the people decide what is fake vs what is not… let them decide which sites they choose to visit vs you/me or anyone else? isn’t that what freedom is? but the thought police don’t like that b/c surely freedom is dangerous too for people like you, isn’t it?

  7. Ludovic says:

    John seems to be lost here 🙂 Anyway.

    @kevin: by writing this article, do you mean that “dangerous conspiracy theorist” shouldn’t be able to buy domains (or premium/generic names) ? Sorry but I didn’t catch the exact purpose of the article excepted the fact that you inform us that X bought Y domains.

  8. Milton Mueller says:

    Kevin
    I am sure that the news sources you wrote about are mostly conspiracy theorists and crackpots. What’s “dangerous” however is the suggestion that ICANN should be in charge of censoring or vetting the content of web sites that use the top level domains. This is far more dangerous and wrong-headed than whatever junk might be published by the crazies (which they can do and have a right to do with or without those domains). I don’t want to be subjected to content review by ICANN when I register a domain. If a registry that owns .NEWS wants to take responsibility for maintaining its reputation, that’s ok. If they don’t, that’s ok too. In general, I think the freedom and vitality of the internet has benefited more from the open .COM space than from attempts to control namespaces, such as .MUSEUM (remember that? No?)

    Anyone can use the word “News.” You might not like what they say but Breitbart News calls itself a news site and dozens of other sites. It’s only the domain name industry which seems to believe that TLD names have some kind of magic power to lend credibility to content. No, the reputation of sites will, ultimately, be based on their content.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Milton, I’m disappointed that you do not appear to have read the full article. You’re better than that!

      The word “ICANN” does not appear in this post, and at no point do I suggest that ICANN should be regulating the use of domains.

      I explicitly say that Donuts is “a neutral registry” and “under no obligation whatsoever to police content on the domains it sells” adding “that would be a Bad Thing.”

      I merely editorialize that “.news has the potential to take a big credibility hit due to the content of these sites.”

      Donuts had the commercial option to not sell these registry-reserved domains to this particular buyer, but it chose the money over the credibility hit.

      It was a commercial decision that I’m suggesting may have been a poor one.

      (Or, it might also be possible that Donuts didn’t know who it was selling to, given that I think that “Mike Texas” might not be a real person.)

      • Kevin
        I did read the entire article. I do appreciate your statement that Donuts is under “no obligation whatsoever to police content on the domains it sells.” As you anticipate, my concerns was with the implications of the statement that “.news has the potential to take a big credibility hit due to the content of these sites.” and more broadly with the “dangerous” theme in the title, which is the sort of framing that contributes to content regulation pressures, especially within ICANN. The reason I brought up ICANN is that in several circles discussing your article people are buzzing about whether ICANN should get involved in a case like this. So I’m happy to see a disclaimer in your reply. But as a journalist I am sure you understand that sometimes the content of a piece can provoke political reactions that are unintended or even opposed by the author.

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