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Libya Cracks Down on Clever .ly Domain Names

Startups with clever .ly domain names such as bit.ly and ad.ly could have their Web addresses pulled out from under them if the government of Libya, which controls the .ly domain space, objects to their content.

Online entrepreneur and consultant Ben Metcalfe wrote Wednesday that his registration of the domain vb.ly, which he co-owned with sex writer Violet Blue as a link shortener for adult-oriented links, was revoked without warning because content on the site did not comply with Libyan Islamic law. The domain was deleted by NIC.ly, the government-owned top level domain registrar around September 23rd.

“Pornography and adult material aren’t allowed under Libyan Law, therefore we removed the domain,” wrote Alaeddin S. ElSharif of NIC.ly according to Metcalfe.

Metcalfe claimed that vb.ly contained no adult content, just links. He expressed his biggest concern over the idea that Libya was exercising editorial control over .ly sites. “I believe the .ly domains should be considered unsafe. Anyone running a business or relying on a website with a one, two or three letter .ly domain should be incredibly cautious,” he warned.

Metcalfe and Blue launched the service in August 2009, and had pre-paid for a second year before it was shut down.

ElSharif wrote that promoting the site as adult oriented, rather than as a generic link shortener such as bit.ly, was enough to violate the country’s decency laws. The full text of ElSharif’s response can be found on Violet Blue’s blog (warning: adult-oriented links).

Metcalfe summed up:

  • .ly domains deemed to be in violation of NIC.ly regulation are being deregistered and removed without warning – causing significant inconvenience and damage.
  • .ly domains are being deregistered and removed due to reasons that do not correspond to the regulations defined in the official NIC.ly Regulations.
  • NIC.ly seems to want to extend their reach beyond the domain itself and regulate the content of websites that use a .ly domain. The concept amounts to censorship and makes .ly domains untenable to be used for user-generated content or url shorteners.
  • Libyan Islamic/Sharia Law is being used to consider the validity of domains, which is unclear and obscure in terms of being able to know what is allowed and what isn’t.
  • NIC.ly have suddenly decided that <4 letter .ly domains should only be available to local Libyans and this appears to create motivation to recover what premium domains they can to go back into this new local-only pot of domains.
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