Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Unified School District closed all schools for a day after receiving a "credible" emailed threat.
Thankfully, the threat was a hoax (New York City schools received a similar threat, and chose to remain open). But the domain that email came from? No mere throwaway Gmail account, but the bizarrely-named Cock.li.
Cock.li is one of a slew of vulgar email addresses offered by Vincent Canfield, a Linux system administrator who spoke with Motherboard over the phone. According to Canfield, he purchased the domain on a lark in October 2013, while looking for "funny" domains on the registration service Namecheap. Registration cost him a mere $15 per year.
"It's certainly the largest email related cock joke on the internet," Canfield told me. "But it was never really meant to be this big."
According to Canfield, he initially intended to use Cock.li only as his own personal email address. "It wasn't until November  that I posted the address on 4chan, and someone responded and said 'I would love an email address there,'" Canfield said.
Two years later, there are just over 28,000 registered Cock.li accounts.
It probably won't come as a surprise that Canfield said his users come primarily from the 4Chan and 8chan communities. Other emails offered through Cock.li include horsefucker.org and goat.si—as well as other more vulgar domains we'll refrain from printing here—and there are over 60,000 registered accounts across all these domains combined (only about half are owned by Canfield, he said). The site also advertises an "official" voice chat server for members called "The Date Rape Appreciation Station."
Canfield says he's never advertised or promoted the server, which is run solely off user donations. "It scares the shit out me enough as it is, the rate at which it has grown," he said.
But with that growth has come increased scrutiny from law enforcement. Canfield has received four subpoenas for basic user information since November, requesting IP addresses, account records, and other subscriber metadata data.
The most recent request came on Tuesday from the New York City Police Department, in response to a threat sent to New York schools that was similar to the one received in LA. Canfield wrote on the Cock.li homepage that he complies "with all federal laws regarding online content hosting and will report any illegal activity to the relevant authorities," and publishes all the requests he receives.
Apparently some good has come out of the domain, however. In a blog post, Canfield wrote that a couple apparently met because of the site, and a Chinese user had been referred to Cock.li as a means of evading government surveillance.
"You're supposed to go the doctor if an erection lasts over four hours," Canfield told me. "Mine's lasted a bit over two years, and I don't plan on stopping."
Masters of their Domain is a column that investigates who owns popular or interesting domain names, and what they're doing with them.