Cybersquatters back Caoimhe Guilfoyle to win Big Brother

In spite of waning audience figures, and cancellation for Channel 4, the last Endemol production of Big Brother is gaining unwelcome attention from cybersquatters and online speculators.
In a statement on June 11th, Andrew Robertson, the series’ digital executive producer at Endemol, said the company wanted “to make the online elements integral to the show, so what happens in the house is directly affected by people engaging online.” The official Big Brother website this year is integrated with Facebook Connect and ties in with Twitter and YouTube.
However, beyond the show’s official website and social media profiles, online speculators have been surreptitiously registering multiple domain names and social media profiles relating to this year’s contestants. The cyber squatters are either trying to cash in on users looking for official housemate websites by running online ads or by ‘brand jack’ the website of the eventual winner.
According to our analysis of web domains and profiles relating to the Big Brother Candidates, the majority of the housemates have fallen victim of brand hijacking:

  • The most cybersquatted housemate is Caoimhe Guilfoyle, giving an indicator of who the speculators are backing to win. Over the last week, cybersquatters have registered domains such as: www.caoimheguilfoyle.com, www.caoimheguilfoyle.co.uk, www.caoimheguilfoyle.net and www.caoimheguilfoyle.info
  • The next most popular are Josie Gibson, Ife Kuku, Rachael White, Corin Forshaw and Mario Mugan who, in the past week have each had  a combination of three potential domain names registered (.com,.co.uk, .net, .info)
  • Only two housemates have escaped – Ben Duncan and Dave Vaughan – a sign that speculators don’t rate their chances of winning

Beyond speculators, some unofficial online fan groups and blogs are growing for the housemates but, without moderation, these are receiving negative as well as positive comment: Josie, Mario, Rachael and Corin also have the dubious honour of having gained unofficial blogs since going into the house, which feature blog posts such as ‘Corin Forshaw’s bisexual romps’ and ‘Rachael White likes skinny ginger guys’
It seems ironic that the producers of a show about monitoring people 24/7 has failed to monitor the basic online profiles of its contestants.

Endemol has obviously done some work in advising the housemates on how to protect their online reputations as none have publicly viewable social networking profiles, but it seems clear that it  has not done much to advise them how they will be able to manage their fifteen minutes of fame online once out of the house.

For a company who have made a lot of noise about Big Brother’s influence on the web, they have missed a fairly obvious trick here. It is easy to buy a domain name but much harder to get it back once someone else owns it.

There is no reason why a non-tech savvy and – before they entered the house – non-celebrity housemate should know what steps to take to protect their celebrity personas online. Contestants on a public show should really have received more professional advice on how to protect their online reputation.

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