GOP URL Shortener Pranked

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Pranksters Make Short Work of GOP's URL Shortener for Conservatives
by Eliot Van Buskirk
Wired
December 15, 2009

thiscouldgetugly-200The Republican party took down its innovative link-shortening tool Tuesday for several hours after pranksters had a field day using the tool to associate the GOP with bondage sites.

As part of its new media strategy, the Republican party launched a new site called GOP.am on Monday. It's a URL shortener designed to make it easy for conservative web surfers to exchange links to web pages.

Pranksters almost immediately began using the service to link to controversial or ironically intended websites, such as the official site of the American Communist Party, a bondage website and a webpage advertising a sex toy in the likeness of Barack Obama. GOP.am apparently started blocking such links at some point Tuesday morning, and the GOP.am homepage was taken offline.

The website is back online late Tuesday morning PST, and the company that designed the site in collaboration with the Republican National Committee plans to add an automatic filtering system to help with the high volume of what its president calls "pornographic, lewd" or "hateful" URLs being added to its service.

Possibly the first branded URL shortener, GOP.am was designed by the RNC's new media consultants, Political Media, to work somewhat like bit.ly, in that it shortens URLs so that they can be more easily exchanged through short messaging services like Twitter. Google launched its own URL shortener Monday afternoon, and Facebook now has one, too.

But unlike bit.ly, GOP.am includes a toolbar at the top of the screen that follows users as they click through to see whatever pages the links go to. It also sports an animation of RNC chairman Michael Steele walking around on the lower right as if he's showing off the website - particularly awkward when that website is the alt.com bondage site. Users of the Balloon-Juice website entertained each other last night by exchanging scores of such links, which have since been blocked.

Read the rest of this article here.

image: Balloon Juice