The Ghost of Trump U.

Google delists marketer’s analysis of Trump University sales letter after friend of deceased Donald Trump ghostwriter files copyright claim

Trump University, founded in 2004 by its presidential namesake, was an unaccredited real estate programme aimed at budding investors.

Before and after its closure in 2010, the New York-based programme faced repeated allegations of illegal business practices by state authorities, plus two federal lawsuits brought by former students who claimed they were defrauded out of thousands of dollars in tuition fees (in late 2016, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle the lawsuits).

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Now Trump U. is back to haunt the archives of the Lumen Database, a website that collects and analyses online takedown requests.

Earlier this month, Lumen published multiple DMCA copyright complaints received by Google requesting that the search engine delist pages from Swiped.co, a self-described “community for marketers, copywriters & savvy business minds” founded in 2013 by New Jersey-based marketer Mike Schauer.

Swiped.co founder Mike Schauer (source)

The complaints were sent by Big Jason Henderson, founder of Las Vegas marketing company SMH Marketing, who requested that Google delist Schauer’s annotated analysis of a decade-old Trump U. sales letter by deceased Trump ghostwriter Scott “Mongo” Haines.

Henderson says he acquired the rights to Haines’ works shortly after Haines’ death in January.

Top right: Marketing consultant Big Jason Henderson (source)

Here’s one of three complaints Henderson sent Google:

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If you can’t read that it says:

I am the copyright holder of “Shortcut Copywriting Secrets.” This course includes a text-based course (204 pages), a quickstart guide (27 pages), and two volumes of sales letters (336 pages). My rights to this work include text, sales letters, logos, and cover images. This sales letter from the course appear on the website swiped.co and subsequently appears in Google search results.

Search results for “Scott Haines” show that Google has delisted the page as a result of Henderson’s complaint:

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In an e-mail, Schauer said that he is saddened by the ordeal.

“I’m not trying to pass his work off as my own or sell it,” said Schauer. “I’m using it to educate and teach copywriting, while highlighting the man who wrote it.”

I asked Techdirt reporter Tim Cushing about the possible fair use components of Schauer’s post.

“I think it’s clearly fair use,” said Cushing. “In addition to [the fact that Schauer’s commentary alone should be enough to stake a credible fair use claim], it’s a marketing letter meant to be seen by as many potential customers as possible. It’s not as though publishing it somehow diminishes the market for Trump U. offerings – even if Trump U. were still a viable entity. This is marketing material, not an excerpt from the courses Trump U. was selling.”

Cushing added: “Misuse of the DMCA process only creates more commentary.”

Strangely enough, Henderson appears to agree. In an e-mail, he said he has no issue with the delisted page, and that he intended to target another page which he claims contains copyrighted material taken from Haines’ collection – a claim disputed by Schauer.

Here’s what Henderson wrote to me:

My wife’s been helping out and says she did not intend to put in a claim for the Trump U. letter.

I had told her to only look for Trump U. letters which were addressed to Scott which would indicate it was taken from Scott’s collection.

Might have been because it was also on a page that linked to another sales letter which was copyrighted by Scott and included in his collection.

So, I believe she is in communication with swiped.co and working something out because I have no issue with and would even be willing to provide some missing info about that Trump U. letter.

Henderson confirmed that he will ask Google to relist the disappeared pages, on the condition that Schauer agrees to include a link to Henderson’s website.

In the meantime, Schauer has filed a counter notification with Google.

Update, 7/11/2017: According to Schauer, Google has relisted the targeted pages.

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Boing Boinged

Boing Boing cites my blog post about Medicare scammer’s takedown request

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Earlier this month, I blogged about multiple copyright takedown requests sent by one or more Medicare scammers, claiming copyright of their names, life stories, and criminal records, in an effort to convince Google to delist reports about the $5.4 million criminal scheme from the U.S. Department of Justice website.

Today my post was cited by Boing Boing, a long-running, award-winning online zine and self-proclaimed “directory of wonderful things,” which has reported about the takedown requests.

Via “The ultimate DMCA takedown fail” by Rob Beschizza, Boing Boing, October 23, 2017:

A gentleman jailed for his part in a $5.4m scam wanted Google to remove links to news stories about the wheeze. His cunning plan to get them to do it – file a DMCA takedown notice claiming copyright in his own name and criminal record – perhaps offers a clue about why he got caught in the first place.

From the FBI’s press release:

“According to a plea agreement filed in this case, Henrik Sardariani obtained more than $5 million in loans after, among other things, falsifying numerous documents. In order to obtain one of the loans, Henrik Sardariani fraudulently used a house as collateral and falsely claimed to be the president of the company that owned the property. To support the claim that he controlled the company, Henrik Sardariani created false corporate records that were presented to the lender.

Henrik Sardariani also admitted that he created fraudulent property records to make it appear that prior loans had been paid off and that, therefore, new loans would be fully secured by unencumbered property. The fraudulent reconveyances bore forged and fraudulent signatures of notaries public, as well as fraudulent stamps of the notaries public.”

Update: Shooting the Messenger writes that there are at least three of these DMCA takedowns filed by people involved in this particular case.

Blurred Stats (Part III)

The U.K. Statistics Authority just censured Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders for “hugely” exaggerating rape conviction statistics – here’s a list of news outlets that published the bogus figures

Last week, the U.K. Statistics Authority formally censured Saunders for “hugely” exaggerating the 2017 rape conviction rate.

Via “CPS chief is blasted for claiming the number of rape convictions is more than double the real figure” by Martin Beckford, The Daily Mail, October 21, 2017:

Britain’s top prosecutor has been blasted by a watchdog for claiming the number of rape convictions is more than double the real figure.

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, was warned that the hugely inflated figures in a report on violence against women were ‘misleading’.

She was told in a letter from the UK Statistics Authority that the true number of people convicted of rape last year was under 1,400. This is less than half the 3,000 she alleged in the report by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) earlier this month.

The huge gap is because the CPS includes crimes that were originally investigated as rapes but later downgraded to less serious offences.

Last night, TV company executive Leon Hawthorne, who complained about the statistics discrepancy, said: ‘Alison Saunders went on the media to boast about how more and more rapists are being found guilty. The problem is her figures are a calculated deception.’

Here’s a list of news outlets that published the “hugely” inflated figures, including two major British newspapers that last year issued corrections as a result of efforts by this blog:

The Independent – Last year, The Independent falsely reported that in 2016 there were “a record number of rape prosecutions (4,643) and convictions (2,689).” The paper later issued a correction “to reflect the fact that the CPS rape conviction figure of 2,689 also include cases where a conviction was obtained for an alternative or lesser offence.”

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Earlier this month, the paper again falsely reported that the number of convictions for violent crimes against women including rape “had increased, from 69 per cent in 2007-08 to 75.3 per cent this year – the highest ever recorded.”

The Daily Telegraph – Last year, The Telegraph falsely reported that in 2016, the “conviction rate for rape cases rose to 57.9 per cent of the 4,643 cases brought.” The paper later issued a clarification, plus a lengthy explanation. It did not report the 2017 statistics.

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The Guardian – Last year, The Guardian false!y reported that in 2016 there were “a record number of rape prosecutions.” The report correlated those numbers with inflated numbers of convictions.

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Earlier this month, the paper again falsely reported that the “number of rape prosecutions completed rose from 4,643 in 2015-16 to a record 5,190 in 2016-17.”

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BBC News – Earlier this month, BBC News falsely reported that in 2017, convictions for rape rose “to new highs of 5,190.”

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The Times – Earlier this month, The Times falsely reported that “the number of rape convictions rose from 2,689 to 2,991 between 2015 and 2016.”

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BuzzFeed News – Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News falsely reported that “convictions for rape have increased by 48% over the past 10 years.”

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Click here to see the underlying CPS data on the 2017 rape conviction rate.

Blurred Stats (Part II)

U.K. Statistics Authority censures head of state prosecution service for “hugely” exaggerating rape conviction rate statistics

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I recently blogged about how the U.K. Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) frequently inflates the rape conviction rate with its annual Violence Against Women and Girls crime report.

For instance, this year’s report boasts the “highest volumes ever recorded” of rape convictions, with a rise “from 2,689 in 2015-16 to 2,991 in 2016–17.” However, the accompanying data shows that those figures include “cases resulting in a conviction for rape, but also cases initially flagged as rape where a conviction was obtained for an alternative or lesser offence,” and “where a decision is taken to charge an offence other than rape, or where a rape charge is subsequently amended.”

Efforts via this blog to report the actual figures last year resulted in corrections in two major British newspapers, including a page two correction in the print edition of The Daily Telegraph.

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Now comes news that the U.K. Statistics Authority has censured Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, for “hugely” exaggerating the figures.

Via “CPS chief is blasted for claiming the number of rape convictions is more than double the real figure” by Martin Beckford, The Daily Mail, October 21, 2017:

Britain’s top prosecutor has been blasted by a watchdog for claiming the number of rape convictions is more than double the real figure.

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, was warned that the hugely inflated figures in a report on violence against women were ‘misleading’.

She was told in a letter from the UK Statistics Authority that the true number of people convicted of rape last year was under 1,400. This is less than half the 3,000 she alleged in the report by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) earlier this month.

The huge gap is because the CPS includes crimes that were originally investigated as rapes but later downgraded to less serious offences.

Last night, TV company executive Leon Hawthorne, who complained about the statistics discrepancy, said: ‘Alison Saunders went on the media to boast about how more and more rapists are being found guilty. The problem is her figures are a calculated deception.’

Blurred Stats

Annual Violence Against Women and Girls crime report by U.K. state prosecution service inflates rape conviction rate statistics for second year in a row

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Last year, I blogged about how the U.K. Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) inflated the rape conviction rate with its annual Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) crime report.

In a press release, the CPS claimed that in 2015-16 it convicted “more cases of rape…than ever before,” with “a rise in the rape conviction rate [from 56.9 per cent] to 57.9 percent.” Those figures were widely reported by the British press. However, a close look at the accompanying data showed that those figures included “cases initially flagged as rape where a conviction was obtained for an alternative or lesser offence” and “where a rape charge is subsequently amended.”

Efforts via this blog to report the actual figures resulted in corrections in two major British newspapers, including a page two correction in the print edition of The Daily Telegraph.

Earlier this week, the CPS released its 10th annual VAWG report. The report again boasts the “highest volumes ever recorded” of rape convictions, with a rise “from 2,689 in 2015-16 to 2,991 in 2016–17.”

The accompanying data also includes the caveat that “CPS data on successful rape prosecutions includes not only cases resulting in a conviction for rape, but also cases initially flagged as rape where a conviction was obtained for an alternative or lesser offence.” The data report further states that CPS figures include cases “where a decision is taken to charge an offence other than rape, or where a rape charge is subsequently amended.”

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So far five major publications, The Guardian, BBC NewsThe Independent, The Times, and BuzzFeed News, have published stories quoting the CPS’ claims about “record” numbers of convictions.

I’ll ask all four about the inflated figures and blog the results.

Seryan Mirzakhanyan©

Medicare scammer claims copyright of his name, life story, and criminal record in effort to convince Google to delist reports about $5.4 million fraud conviction from U.S. Department of Justice website

Seryan Mirzakhanyan, a 32-year-old Armenian-born scammer from California, who in 2016 was convicted of defrauding Medicare of $5.4 million, has filed at least three DMCA notices with Google requesting that the search engine delist records of the criminal scheme from the Department of Justice (DOJ) website, plus a number of news and legal document hosting sites.

According to one of the targeted DOJ reports, last year Mirzakhanyan along with three other men including two former Houston medical clinic owners, admitted that they opened three clinics “with the intention to defraud Medicare,” that “the majority of the diagnostic tests allegedly done at the three clinics were either not done or not medically necessary,” and that “the medical equipment, patient files and doctors were all there only to make it appear legitimate. They further admitted hiring doctors for that purpose and that they paid marketers to bring patients to the fraudulent clinics.”

In an effort to convince Google to fulfil his request, Mirzakhanyan is claiming copyright of his name, life story, and criminal record. Here is an example of one of the requests, via the Lumen Database:

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If you can’t read that it says: “my name seryan mirzakhanyan is copyrighted, which includes my criminal record.”

Here’s the DOJ delisting request:

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If you can’t read that it says: “life of seryan mirzakhanyan born in armenia, got charged with healthcare fraud.”

In January, Mirzakhanyan was handed a 28-month prison sentence and ordered to pay restitution of $1.48 million for his part in the criminal scheme.

Update, 23/10/2017: It appears that two other people who were involved in the scam (or one person pretending to be multiple people) have filed identical requests. Click here, here, and here to read.

Stockholmies

Charity for self-exiled Turkish journalists living in Stockholm reports my blog post re: legal efforts by Turkey’s First Lady to scrub negative news stories about herself from the web

Earlier this week I blogged about legal efforts by Turkey’s First Lady Emine Erdoğan to scrub negative news stories about herself from the web.

The story has since been picked up by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a non-profit advocacy group set-up by self-exiled Turkish journalists living in Stockholm, Sweden.

From the “About” page of the SCF website:

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) is an advocacy organization that promotes the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms with a special focus on Turkey, a country with eighty million citizens that is experiencing a dramatic decline in its parliamentary democracy under its autocratic leadership.

SCF is a non-profit organization set up by a group of journalists who have been forced to live in self-exile in Sweden against the background of a massive crackdown on press freedom in Turkey, where almost 300 journalists have been jailed, (For updated list click) and close to 200 media outlets have been shuttered by a series of arbitrary decisions taken by the Turkish authorities. It is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, a country that has a strong tradition on the freedom of expression and just celebrated the 250th anniversary of the anniversary for the adoption of legal guarantees for freedom of information and a free press.

SCF is committed to being a reference source which provides a broad and accurate perspective on rights violations in Turkey, monitoring daily developments through the lens of fact-based investigative journalism, and documenting individual cases of infringement of fundamental rights and liberties.

The founders of SCF are experienced and respected journalists who managed national daily newspapers in Turkey for years before they were forced to leave. They have the expertise, human resources, and network on the ground to track events in Turkey despite serious challenges and impediments to accessing information.

Via “Turkey’s ‘First Lady’ seeks to censor negative reports about her on Internet,”¹ Stockholm Center for Freedom, October 6, 2017:

According to an article written by Dean Sterling Jones titled “First Lady of Lumen” published in “Shooting the Messenger,” based on data assured by the Lumen Database, a website that collects and analyses online takedown requests, Emine Erdoğan, who is the wife of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan so she is Turkey’s First Lady, sent a Turkish court order complaint to Google and WordPress demanding the removal of news reports describing them as “damaging” to her “personality rights.”

“Personality rights” refers to “the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness, or other unequivocal aspects of one’s identity.” However, according to the article most of the targeted URLs, including one of the WordPress blogs, have since been removed from the web, making it difficult to determine the specifics of Erdoğan’s complaint. From the remaining URLs, it appears that she objected to a blitz of negative news reports and images.

Targeted URLs include a Google blog post about Turkey’s nationwide Twitter ban, another since-deleted story that implicates the Turkish First Lady in a corruption scandal, and an article that appears to suggest that Turkish citizens who insult their government will be deported and have their citizenship revoked.

[…]

Turkey has become once again the leading country among the countries that have censored and requested removal of content from Twitter, according to a transparency report covering between Jan. 1 – Jun. 30, 2017.

The Turkish Interior Ministry stated on August 7, 2016 that 3,710 people have been the subject of legal proceedings and 1,656 were arrested between March and August 2016 due to social media posts. As of the end of 2016, at least 10,000 people were under investigation for committing the alleged crime of making terrorist propaganda and insulting senior state officials on social media.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Interior Affairs in December 2016, 3,710 social media users had been investigated in the last six months of 2016, of whom 1,656 were arrested. A total of 1,203 of those investigations resulted in releases on probation.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has shown that 280 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of September 30, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 255 are pending trial, but only 25 journalists remain convicted while serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrant remains for 134 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Click here to read the full article.

¹The English is a little shaky, so I’ve made some light edits.

First Lady of Lumen

First Lady of Turkey Emine Erdoğan demands takedown of negative news reports

That’s according to the Lumen Database, a website that collects and analyses online takedown requests. In April, the site uploaded a Turkish court order complaint Erdoğan sent to Google and WordPress demanding the removal of news reports described as “damaging” to the “personality rights” of the First Lady.

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“Personality rights” refers to “the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness, or other unequivocal aspects of one’s identity.”

Most of the targeted URLs, including one of the WordPress blogs, have since been removed from the web, making it difficult to determine the specifics of Erdoğan’s complaint.

From the remaining URLs, it appears that she objected to a blitz of negative news reports and images, including this image of her husband, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, wearing what appears to be a training bra on his head:

Definitely not a fez (source)

Elsewhere, the Turkish First Lady has targeted Turkish opposition paper Ulusal Kanal for reporting that she copied her Twitter bio from former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. While the original link is no longer available, a duplicate of the story carries the headline: “Emine Erdoğan is disgraced in the world!”

The story was first reported in 2014 by former Pentagon advisor Michael Rubin, who wrote via the American Enterprise Institute:

When it comes to respect for Intellectual Property Rights, Turkey ranks quite poorly. If Turkey wants to reform, perhaps they should start at the top. When Recep Tayyip Erdoğan assumed the presidency last month, his wife Emine became first lady. It seems Emine models herself after Michelle Obama, right down to her twitter account.

The description on Michelle’s twitter account reads, “This account is run by Organizing for Action staff. Tweets from the First Lady are signed -mo.”

Now here’s the description from Emine Erdoğan’s twitter feed: “Emine Erdoğan Resmi Twitter Hesabı This account is run by Organizing for Action staff. Tweets from the First Lady are signed -mo.”

Then again, maybe it’s not shameless plagiarism in Turkey’s presidential palace. Maybe Emine Erdoğan really does use the initials ‘mo.’ And as for suggesting any impropriety that might undercut Emine’s vestal image, I’m sure we’re only a Turkish press conference away from blaming this scandal on Jews, the interest rate lobbyyours truly, that well-known personification of subversion Steven Cook, or the Gülenists.

As it happens, Turkish officials didn’t blame the Jews, instead blaming “anti-government forces” and claiming that the Twitter account was not operated by the Turkish First Lady.

Speaking to the Washington Free Beacon, Rubin gave his own interpretation:

“The account has been active since August,” Rubin said. “Turkey has taken the power to knock sites offline without court orders in a matter of minutes. The Turkish explanation beggars belief.”

“The fact that Emine Erdogan’s account continues—this time with its plagiarized description fixed—suggests that Emine’s handlers screwed up but were too proud to admit it,” Rubin said. “The whole incident is a metaphor for what Turkey has become: dishonest, dishonorable, but too proud to admit its fundamental corruption.”

Other targeted URLs include a Google blog post about Turkey’s nationwide Twitter ban, another since-deleted story that implicates the Turkish First Lady in a financial corruption scandal, and an article that appears to suggest that Turkish citizens who insult their government will be deported and have their citizenship revoked.

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It’s not the first time the Erdoğans have petitioned Google and WordPress to delete negative reports about themselves from the web.

Last year I blogged about successful attempts by the Turkish president to block a WordPress blog featuring satirical cartoons depicting him as a tyrannical dictator. That story was subsequently picked up by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Maren Williams (click here to read), and touched on by The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markey (click here to read).

Earlier this year, the easily offended president asked Google to delist “hurtful, humiliating” reports comparing him to Adolf Hitler. That story was subsequently picked up by Techdirt’s Tim Cushing (click here to read).

Paparazzi Schätze

British law firm claims copyright on paparazzi hot tub photos of pop star Rihanna with her billionaire Saudi boyfriend

British law firm Carter-Ruck Solicitors is claiming copyright on paparazzi hot tub photos of pop star Rihanna cosying up to her new boyfriend, billionaire Saudi Toyota heir Hassan Jameel. That’s according to the Lumen Database, a website that publishes online takedown requests.

Records submitted by Google show that Carter-Ruck recently employed Web Sheriff, a British anti-piracy company, to target a number of well-known women’s magazines and gossip sites, including Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Fashion Magazine, Uproxx, Complex, and perennial litigation-magnet Lipstick Alley.

On behalf of Carter-Ruck, Web Sheriff has sent Google around 14 requests claiming that the “pirated copyright photographs” were published “without license or authority,” and that “the nature of images means they do not qualify as ‘fair use.’”

Here is an example of one of the requests, via Lumen:

DMCA (Copyright) Complaint to Google

SENDER
Web Sheriff
on behalf of Carter-Ruck Solicitors (Law Firm)
[Private]
…GB
Sent on August 24, 2017

RECIPIENT
Google Inc
[Private]
Mountain View, CA, 94043, US
Received on August 24, 2017

SUBMITTER
Google Inc

Re: Unknown
SENT VIA: UNKNOWN

NOTICE TYPE: DMCA

Copyright claim #1

KIND OF WORK: Unspecified

DESCRIPTION
1. Rights Owners : CARTER-RUCK SOLICITORS / LAW FIRM (OWNER OF IMAGES VIA FULL ASSIGNMENT OF COPYRIGHT) 2. Rights Agent : WEB SHERIFF® 3. Infringed / Violated Rights : COPYRIGHT 4. Infringed Individuals / Entities : CARTER-RUCK SOLICITORS / LAW FIRM (COPYRIGHT OWNER) 5. Infringing / Violating Materials : PIRATED COPYRIGHT PHOTOGRAPHS (PUBLISHED WITHOUT LICENSE OR AUTHORITY – AND NATURE OF IMAGES MEANS THEY DO NOT QUALIFY AS ‘FAIR USE’)

At least one of the targeted publications, Toronto’s Fashion Magazine, has since 404-ed its article about the couple.

Carter-Ruck Lawyers has a reputation for using aggressive legal tactics to squash negative news stories about its celebrity clientele.

Last year, I blogged extensively about the firm’s attempts to censor internationally based journalists and Twitter users from reporting or discussing British pop singer Elton John’s open marriage (click here and here to read).

Saterized

Obscene domain names once owned by Trump associate Felix Sater get snapped up after articles by Shooting the Messenger and The Daily Beast

Last week I scooped the story that Donald Trump’s former business partner, Felix Sater, possibly used to own a number of obscene domain names intended to disparage Sater’s Bayrock Group colleague, Jody Kriss.

In 2010, Kriss sued Bayrock for $1 billion, alleging that the New York real estate company and its partners, including Donald and Ivanka Trump, had illegally concealed Sater’s 1998 racketeering conviction and later 1999 sentencing.

Shortly after I published my post, The Daily Beast published the same story with the title, “Trump Pal Bought IAmAF**got.Com and VaginaBoy.Com, Then the Sites Attacked His Enemy.”

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Apparently, somebody thought this was the perfect opportunity to troll 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

Yesterday, an anonymous troll re-registered IAmAFaggot.com. Only instead of Sater’s old site, visitors are now redirected to a blank page that says “Ted Cruz Is The Zodiac Killer,” before being redirected yet again to Cruz’s official U.S. Senate site.

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“Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer” is a meme that began in 2013, and which according to The Guardian newspaper “satirizes the fact that political discourse in America has sunk so low that this kind of spurious accusation can actually get traction.”

According to Whois.com, the registrant used a privacy service to obscure their real name. However, a reverse Whois search shows that the site is hosted on a server owned by Austin native Steven Hughes.

Another domain mentioned in the articles, IAmADirtBag.com, is currently on sale for $6,000 at UnreasonablyPricedDomains.com, a side project of Brooklyn native Jeff Koyen’s Chaotic Neutral, a satirical site about management speak.

The sale tag reads: “Oops, someone forgot to renew their attack domain.”

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