The presidential candidate’s failure to secure key domain names is the least of his worries.
Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr
When Republican Texas senator Ted Cruz announced his plans to run for president on Monday, many were quick to point he already lost the first race of his campaign: the rush to secure key domain names.
With tedcruz.com occupied by a pro-Obama lawyer by the same name, the apparent official campaign site for Cruz is tedcruz.org—not prime real estate for a presidential candidate. Other Cruz domains are occupied as well: www.tedcruz2016.com hosts a slideshow of scenic panoramas, and is registered by a Nebraska-based web design firm.
According to a who.is search, some jokester under an anonymous name registered the domain tedcruzforamerica.com Monday to redirect to www.healthcare.gov, the website for enrollment for President Obama's Affordable Care Act, which Cruz has aggressively campaigned against.
The scattered domain names are not a great look for Cruz, but with his track record, they are the least of his worries when it comes to the internet.
Shortly after Cruz announced his campaign, Vox pointed out a security flaw on his website. The page soliciting donations from supporters appeared to lack SSL, the encryption technology websites use to keep visitors' credit card information safe. According to Vox, a Cruz spokesperson later clarified the donation embed on the page itself had SSL, and user info was not compromised, but Vox maintained the lack of encryption on the page itself still represented a security flaw. (Other politicians, including Chuck Grassley, Elizabeth Warren, Harry Reid, and Rand Paul have SSL enabled on their donation pages, for example)
More worrisome than his misadventures with Nigerian princes are Cruz's statements against net neutrality
In addition, tedcruz.org happened to list nigerian-prince.com as an alternative address for the site, apparently a mixup due to an automatically-assigned certificate by its content delivery network that has since been changed.
The Nigerian prince flub was a particularly cringe-worthy coincidence given a 2013 controversy for the presidential hopeful, when he angered Nigerian-Americans with a joke about Nigerian email scammers during a gathering in Houston.
More worrisome than his misadventures involving Nigerian princes are Cruz's statements against net neutrality, the idea that internet providers should be required to treat all internet traffic and data equally. In November 2014 Cruz tweeted that net neutrality is "Obamacare for the internet."
"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) November 10, 2014
"One of the biggest regulatory threats to the Internet is 'net neutrality'" he wrote. "In short, net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet. It would put the government in charge of determining Internet pricing, terms of service and what types of products and services can be delivered, leading to fewer choices, fewer opportunities and higher prices."
Under the net neutrality plan proposed at the time of Cruz's writing, which passed in February, the government would not regulate internet pricing or what products could be delivered. Misleading statements like these are particularly concerning coming from someone who sits on the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, and someone who is now a potential future president.
Evan Greer, internet activist and Campaign Director of Fight for the Future, an organization that campaigned for net neutrality, said Cruz's views on net neutrality are largely off-base.
"Ted Cruz in this case is a classic example of folks in Washington, DC not understanding that outside DC, net neutrality is not a partisan issue," she said. "The public wants net neutrality, the public wants open internet, and hopefully these politicians catch up with the times and stop making fools out of themselves in the future."
She also said it often seems like politicians don't have a handle on how the internet works, but the bigger issue is that even if they did, many of them wouldn't act in its best interests.
"The reality is that corporations with special interests are spending millions on lobbying to corrupt Congress and make them act against the best interests of the internet for money," she said.
Cruz's office could not be reached for comment. Repeated calls to the number listed on the bottom of his campaign website were sent to a full voice mailbox. Similarly, calls to the press number listed on his senator page reached a full voice mailbox. A spokesperson who answered on the fourth call offered an email for Cruz's campaign. Motherboard will update this story if they reply. UPDATE: Cruz's office replied with some terse answers to Motherboard's questions. When asked if the campaign was aware of the domain issues, a spokesperson said "Yes we knew, because it's old news that's been previously reported." The spokesperson also reiterated that Cruz still regards net neutrality as "Obamacare for the internet."
The "contact" page on Cruz's campaign site lists a P.O. box address and features a form to fill out your contact information, but no way to attach a message. After filling out my own information, I received a "thank you for contacting our campaign" message from the contact page that offers no actual way to contact Cruz.
Meanwhile, other potential 2016 candidates aren't faring well in the way of internet literacy either. Hillary Clinton came under fire after it was uncovered she had used a personal email account during her time as Secretary of State, which beyond the immediate criticisms regarding government transparency, has major security implications if the messages she sent were unencrypted.
In response to the Clinton controversy, Jeb Bush published a trove of emails from his time as governor of Florida, many of which inadvertently shared the personal information of his constituents, including social security numbers, addresses and more.
It's a long road to the 2016 elections; hopefully the top candidates can figure out How to Internet on the way.
UPDATE: This article has been updated with responses from Cruz's office.