Cancel culture is making it risky to take any kind of stance online. Even saying nothing can get you unpersoned. So how do you protect yourself and your business?
Mark E. Jeftovic of Easy DNS has written a whole book on the topic. Tune in as he and James discuss how to navigate the murky waters of the current online situation.
In the podcast:
01:02 – A time when the unthinkable is happening
03:54 – Just so you understand domain names…
07:05 – Most people are doing it completely wrong
08:41 – When even email is not safe from cancel culture
10:38 – A situation that just kept getting worse
14:01 – Damned if you do and if you don’t
14:57 – How to protect your business
19:43 – Why money should come direct from the user
24:13 – What does Mark do for his clients, exactly?
A time when the unthinkable is happening
In recent years, a phenomenon has been taking place in which media, persons, or businesses are denied a presence or a voice on some online platforms. We’ve seen a former president booted off Twitter and email; platforms purged completely of unacceptable terms or topics; videos blocked; groups and accounts deleted overnight.
Mark E. Jeftovic of Easy DNS has been following this trend over the past few years, while writing a book that he hopes will help people’s businesses avoid falling victim to the aptly named cancel culture.
James himself has long taught the risks of building on another’s platform, where just like that, your whole business could be taken away with little or no explanation. He calls this OTR (own the racecourse).
Just so you understand domain names…
Mark and James agree, one of the first steps you can take to a secure online presence is to have your own domain name. Once you register your domain, you can start building your online presence.
“The basic building block of everything you’re going to do online is the domain name.”
A domain name, or a web address, is a human-readable label for the IP addresses that computers understand as a string of numbers.
Whether you outright own a domain or whether you are effectively leasing it depends on jurisdiction. However in either case, you have control over the domain name and the site and content that goes on it, at least as long as you have it registered.
And a big no-no, says Mark, is to give people your gmail address when you have a domain name. If you don’t have your own email server, use mail forwarding, which every registrar will support.
Most people are doing it completely wrong
Many people go out and create huge followings on YouTube or large Facebook groups. Then their mistake is using their domain name to redirect to that group or channel. It should be the other way around.
Because all those users, says Mark – all your Twitter followers, Facebook likers, etc., aren’t your users. They’re Twitter’s users, or Facebook’s or Clubhouse’s. And you have access to that audience as long as you play by the platform’s rules.
And what complicates things is those rules can change very quickly. What was okay to say yesterday is suddenly going to get you unpersoned today. It’s a very Orwellian state of things.
The proper thing to do is to use those platforms as tentacles, drawing people back to your turf, and at the very least capturing their email. Because the rule of thumb, says Mark, is that a user or a customer or a prospect or a lead belong to the person whose database they reside in. If they’re in your database, they’re your customer. If they’re on Twitter, again, they’re Twitter’s user, not yours.
When even email is not safe from cancel culture
These days, even email servers can block your content and moderate what you put out. So even if you have your customers’ email addresses, you can still run into a problem, which is why another important point is to have your data backed up.
“Even email servers are blocking your content and moderating what you put out.”
So you have your own domain name, you have all your data backed up, and you have the portability to move to another provider, import your email addresses into another system, or even run your own server, because email, says Mark, is a pretty open protocol.
A situation that just kept getting worse
Mark’s book was meant to be a five or 10-page free report. As 2019 went on, however, he came across more deplatforming incidents and cancel culture, prompting him to add more chapters and sections. He finally decided it had to be a full book.
By the time the book came out in early 2020, Mark thought that the situation had peaked. He had thought that several times during his writing. Then came Coronavirus with its issues of medical misinformation.
Things grew progressively bad, but Mark thought things would calm down after the election. Anything but. Now, he says, we have this toxic combination of hysterical outrage over everything. There’s this cancel culture in which everything is offensive to somebody, and people feel they have the right to silence offenders.
“Everything is offensive to somebody.”
Then, too, there’s big tech and big government, sometimes colliding and sometimes agreeing, while the small guy struggles just to get the facts they want and maintain footing amidst the chaos.
How to protect your business
Mark’s book is titled Unassailable: Protect Yourself from Deplatform Attacks, Cancel Culture and other Online Disasters. It’s available on Amazon, and can be gotten free as well, on PDF or ePub, at unassailablebook.com.
In all the craziness, what does he recommend you do to protect your business?
When the book first came out, Mark thought he had a pat answer. A year later, he honestly wonders if it’s even going to work anymore.
It is, simply, make sure you own your own domain name. In the book, he says, is a chapter about fortifying your domain name. Because even there, there’s always some place where somebody else can exert external pressure over you and for your domain. It’s your registrar. That, he says, is the final place where you have to stick a flag in the ground somewhere and say, this is where our center of gravity emanates from.
Then have your data backed up.
And still, after everything happening, Mark feels the most reliable way to stay in touch with your customers is via email. His company currently uses an open source solution called Mautik. They switched to it after their email provider shut them down for using “Bitcoin” in a newsletter.
Another tip from Mark: Do not build businesses whose model revolves around somebody else deciding whether or not you get paid. The only person that decides whether or not you get paid should be your direct customers. Some people, for instance, set up on Patreon, and all their money comes from Patreon instead of the end user. Not a wise move. AdSense and Amazon are other risky propositions.
“Think about, what would you do if you got a notice saying your account is closed?”
What does Mark do for his clients, exactly?
Mark’s main business is EasyDNS.com. They are a domain registrar, but started off as a DNS provider, becoming an ICANN registrar in 2003. Since then, they’ve added web hosting and email hosting.
This year, they’re launching a spinoff business called DomainSure.com, for very high-value domains. That is, domain names that are holding up a piece of the internet or have to secure very protected membership bases or assets like cryptocurrency exchanges. DomainSure is there to defend a domain on all possible perimeters.
If you register your domain through them, they will fight for you to stop someone shutting it down.
To transfer your domain to them, you simply head to the website, to Transfer a domain. They will do the heavy lifting. Mark kindly provides a coupon code for listeners of this episode, SuperFastBusiness 50% Off Initial Offer.
If you want to chat with Mark, it’s [email protected], or you can go to the website.
There may be a follow-up episode with Mark in the works, so if you have a question you’d like him to discuss, flick James an email – [email protected]
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