Israel Pays Porn Website Owner $3K for @Israel Twitter Name
09/16/2010 - 00:36
Rabbi Jason Miller

The Web can be a misleading place. For years, if you typed whitehouse.com into your browser, it wouldn't take you to the official home of our President on the Web, but rather to the home of a pornographic Web site.

In 2004, the owner of that website decided to get out of the seedy porn site business because his oldest child was about to begin kindergarten and he was afraid of what the other parents might think. The LA Times reported that Daniel Parisi started Whitehouse.com in 1997 and it "has frequently been confused with the official government site Whitehouse.org."

Earlier this week, it was reported that the Israeli government purchased the Twitter account @israel for a six-figure sum from a pornographic Web site owner. More recent accounts, however, have Israeli officials denying the claims of a six-figure payment, yet confirming that they gained access of the Twitter handle in exchange for $3,000.

The Jerusalem Post quotes Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, who said the selling price was significantly lower than that originally asked by its owner, Miami-based Spanish citizen Israel Melendez, who also runs a porn Web site. "I won’t go into the details of the negotiations, but originally he asked for a five-digit sum and all we paid him was $3,000, period," Palmor said. (Those sound like details to me!)

The New York Times and MSNBC.com both ran stories about the transfer of the Twitter name. Melendez opened his @Israel Twitter account in 2007 but was soon harassed by users who thought it belonged to the Israeli government. On August 26, the Israeli government took over the account from Melendez and tweeted the following: "The IsraelMFA twitter account name has been changed to @Israel. Look for us here: twitter.com/israel."

Already, the new Twitter account has claimed over 7,000 followers. It is evident that Israel is moving full steam ahead in the social media realm with increased activity on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube.

I'm not sure who counseled Israel Melendez to settle for only $3,000 for the Twitter name (perhaps the Shin Bet?), but hopefully he's a smarter businessman in his other endeavor.

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