Typos. We all do them. Innocent mistakes.
But we’ve recently discovered something shocking about typos in online google searches.
Specifically, I’m talking about Typo-squatting. Ever heard of it? Neither had we until it happened to us. And it’s evil. A company peddling porn has bought a whole bunch of websites with mis-spellings of our name. Not only that but at the top of each of these website pages they have our correctly spelt website address and words lifted from our real website. Why? Well, to hijack our visitors. On a misspelt google search, this porn site looks like us. We are a non-profit established to make the lives of girls safer and prevent the high rates of self-harm and low self-esteem in preteen and teen girls. Now, girls who inadvertently mis-type our name will be taken to explicit ‘adult’ content. Parents looking for guidance will find themselves faced with shocking images.
We’ve spent a week trying to stop this and it seems we are powerless. We don’t own the domains mis-spelling our name and at first it seemed impossible to even find out who does. Finally, we may have traced the owner to a host server – Scaleways in France. But so far, we’ve had no response to our report of abuse. And from Google the same, nothing.
Why would someone do this? Well, we work preventatively supporting girls in Girls Journeying Together groups from the age of 10 or 11. This is the age that porn sites often go after children with free content to seed an addiction and build their future paying-customer base. Cynical, no?
Meanwhile we fear we will soon receive a blackmail extortion note, asking us for money in exchange for taking the website pages down.
We’ve been advised to change our name – but we’ve spent ten years building our trademarked name; we want to stand up to the bullies and besides we’ve no guarantee they won’t follow us. If we had infinite resources, we might find a lawyer able to go after them for mal-intent and abuse of copyright.
But we’re a non-profit, valiantly keeping our face-to-face services going through the pandemic when they’ve been most needed, and we don’t have any cash to spare.
We may not have the financial might to fight, but we have right on our side. Can you help us?