Sharia Law BEATDOWN? Libya Nixes ‘Sex Positive’ Bit.ly Competitor

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October 6, 2010 9:27 a.m.

Two bloggers who co-owned a “sex-positive” URL shortener at vb.ly say the Libyan domain authority, which registers “.ly” domains, has shut them down for violating “Islamic morality.”

Violet Blue and Ben Metcalfe founded vb.ly last year to offer a URL shortening service that wouldn’t screen out sexual, adult, and generally NSFW links. Other shorteners, such as bit.ly, do.But last month, according to Blue and Metcalfe, vb.ly was unceremoniously shut down. They got in touch with the official registry, known as NIC.ly, and were told their URL violated Libyan regulations.

“Our Country’s Law and Morality do not allow any kind of pornography or its promotion,” wrote a representative of Libya Telecom and Technology, in an email posted by Blue.

URL shortening services, like bit.ly and is.gd and vb.ly, offer a way to shorten long internet addresses to just a few characters, for use in services like Twitter that limit the number of characters one can use.

“While letters ‘vb’ are quite generic and bear no offensive meaning in themselves,” he went on, “they’re being used as a domain name for an openly admitted ‘adult friendly URL shortener’. Now, had your domain merely been a URL shortener for general uses similar to bit.ly (as you claim) there would have been no problem with it. It is when you promote your site being solely for adult uses, or even state that you are ‘adult friendly’ to promote it that we as a Libyan Registry have an issue.”

NIC.ly’s posted regulations say that a domain name itself may contain nothing obscene or explicit. The terms of Libyan Spider, which sells domain names for NIC.ly, do, however, prohibit sexual content:

Any .LY domain name may be registered, except domains containing obscene and indecent names/phrases, including words of a sexual nature; furthermore domain names may not contain words/phrases or abbreviations insulting religion or politics, or be related to gambling and lottery industry or be contrary to Libyan law or Islamic morality, the same applies to the site content.

Sites like vb.ly don’t actually host the content, but the LTT rep took special issue with a photo that was posted on vb.ly’s site, of Blue in a sleeveless shirt holding a beer bottle. Photos like that, he said, are not “decent or family friendly.”

Blue and Metcalfe argue on their blogs that they didn’t violate any of the listed terms of service.

Neither the bloggers nor representatives of NIC.ly have responded to requests for comment.

Late update: Likely presidential contender Mitt Romney says he is dropping his Mitt.ly site for greener pastures.

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