Cyber-Griping: Complain, But Don’t Go Commercial

Sep 2004

The freedom of speech granted by the U.S. Constitution gives us the right to complain. We are given the right to send a critical letter to our newspaper editor, express our displeasure in a television interview, or produce an entire movie critical of our government (e.g., "Farenheit 9/11"). On the Internet, it has become fashionable to register a domain name incorporating the trademark or company name of the target of one's ire. The domain name is then used to identify the location of web site content critical of a company’s products, services, beliefs or business practices. Other common tactics have been to incorporate the target's trademark or company name as part of the critic’s web site content, or into the meta-tags of computer code used to create a derogatory web site, so that search engines will find the sites when the target's trademark or company name is used as a search term. These practices have come to be known as "cyber-griping". This phenomenon has become so prevalent that the web site was established to collect links to numerous online grumblers.