URL Shortners Face Trouble in Libya

.ly URL shorteners, such as bit.ly and VB.ly are facing some trouble from another ly – Libya. This is their Internet Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD); the United Kingdom, by contrast, has .

uk as its ccTLD. Bit.ly and other URL shorteners have been using the .ly domain in their services; as social media becomes a more dominant force, Tweets and status updates depend on shortened URLs to fit in links. Libya is taking issue with the appropriation of their country code and is shutting down .ly sites without notice.

Those domains that do not conform to Libyan and Islamic law, ending in .ly, are being shut down by Libya. VB.ly has been offering URL shortening services for over a year. A month after renewing their domain, the site was pulled suddenly. VB.ly was registered with Nic.ly, a Libyan hosting company, and was pulled because their content violated national law. Libya telecom and web service department spokesperson Alaeddin S. ElSharif said, “Pornography and adult material aren’t allowed under Libyan Law. Therefore, we removed the domain.”

For its part, VB.ly owners Violet Blue and Ben Metcalfe argued that their site did not contain any adult or pornographic material because it is only a one-page shortener. Metcalfe writes, “We felt that the Nic.ly registry was claiming it had deleted our domain for infringements that do not actually form any part of their regulations.”  At issue was an image of Blue drinking beer and wearing a sleeveless shirt. The words “sex-positive” were written behind her. In response to Blue and Metcalfe’s complaints, spokesperson ElSharif wrote back, “The issue of offensive imagery is quite subjective, as what I may deem as offensive, you may not.”

Libya’s move puts all of Bit.ly and other URL shorteners using the prefix at risk for a similar fate. Bit.ly also uses j.mp as a domain, so they may shift their addresses to that field to avoid being blacklisted for hosting “offensive” material.

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