Are you offended by the image below of a bare-knuckled woman with naked arms drinking from a Beck’s beer bottle?  vb.ly is a link shortening service that takes NSFW (Not Safe For Work) content and “safe-ifies” it by giving an SFW — Safe(r) For Work — link to click.  Unfortunately, for vb.ly, the “.ly” domain belongs to Libya, and Libya is a country that adheres to Sharia:  Islamic Law — and Libya doesn’t want any booze-holding, tatted chicks riding their domain anywhere near NSFW territory.

The case of vb.ly is, indeed, a fascination because it argues with the very notion of what it means to publish and thrive in the universal world of the internet where petty niches still thrive and itch to condemn.

The Western ideals of “Free Speech” and “Freedom of Expression” — become quaint totems in the larger expanse of a world filled with indifferent deaths and purposeful human cruelty — and those sweet, American notions, have no moral or legal foothold in Sharia, and Libya isn’t interested in having their domain extension associated with anything that violates Islamic law.

Who’s at fault here?

Were vb.ly foolish to believe their Raison d’être wouldn’t pretty much tick off any country of Islam?

Should Libya even be in the domain extension business if they have such strict and — for many outside the Muslim world — exhausting set of rules and mandates that can never be fully comprehended in the subtleties while being arbitrarily, and harshly, enforced by the clinging, claw-like, hand of hardened, religious, enforcers?

Here’s vb.ly’s NSFW take on the matter:

It’s official: the Libyan government has seized vb.ly. This was done with no warning. Despite the fact that vb.ly was a one-page link-shortening service, Nic.ly (the registry for .ly domain reseller registrar Libyan Spider) informed us that the content of our website was offensive, obscene and illegal according to Libyan Islamic Sharia Law. Not the domain, but the content of the website – no matter where the domain was hosted.

The photograph of me (above) with my bare arms, holding a bottle, and the words “sex-positive” were cited as obscene, offensive and illegal. We were also told that we were “promoting an illegal activity” with our link shortener.

Here is Libya’s response published on the NSFW vb.ly website:

Pornography and adult material aren’t allowed under Libyan Law, therefore we removed the domain, and before doing so we warned you thru our Resellers and gave you a relatively long grace period to rectify your situation. Being that you didn’t receive/ ignored our warnings is your problem not ours

When we have an out cry from within our Community and even from places as remote as Morocco (a sister Muslim and Arab state) asking us how such a ‘scandalous’ domain is allowed to exist under our National extension we are left with no option but to apply the rules. I invite you to conduct a simple search to see if domains such as (what was) yours are allowed to exist under the ccTLD of other Arab and Muslim Countries.

They don’t. Why should Libya be the exception?

Based upon the above, the decision to remove vb.ly from our registry is irreversible and final. I’m sorry that we couldn’t reach a more pleasant conclusion, but this was the result of your ignoring our rules and regulations and failing to communicate with us through our official channels.

So, who’s right?

I tend to think you’re wantonly dealing in danger when you register a Top Level Domain with a foreign country unless you are intimately familiar with their mores, values and culture.  You give blood to a shark, expect to get bitten and bled anew.

I’m sure Bit.ly are shaking in their NSFW shorter-link boots as they try to scrape around and wonder who and what are using their service.  Even if Bit.ly are proactive in censoring “non-Libyan approved content” — that doesn’t mean some nefarious entity won’t try hard to put them in violation of Sharia just because that entity is bored and looking for a twist.

Does Bit.ly belong to the free world or to Libya?

The answer can be found in the vb.ly ash:

Bit.ly are owned by Libya in full and they answer to their Sharia masters.

I only have one “foreign” domain registration.  It’s “BolesUniversity.co.uk” and it redirects to BolesUniversity.com.  That co.uk domain name isn’t vital to my business and if it were taken back in some sort of tempestuous political or religious mess, I wouldn’t miss it much.  Neither my business nor my brand rely upon the appearance, or disappearance, of — BolesUniversity.co.uk — even though it is delightful ego-massage owning that domain.

We live in a compressing world culture that lashes opposite interests together in unseemly and, often uncouth, ways.  Can we ever be comfortable as a shared, co-mingling, human body of one mind, one heart, and one philosophy of living?  Or will religion and politics always pierce us for the flaying and the eating of us alive when we aren’t looking or paying taut enough attention while we get caught unaware in our NSFW underpants?

5 Comments

  1. I was unaware that .ly was a Libyan domain but that makes sense now that I think about it!

    I suppose it’s their right to enforce rules on their domains. It’s a bit like when people throw a fit when you ask them not to eat a bowl of cereal in the library — as though they were sitting at their own breakfast table! Rules are there to be followed, right?

    I suppose religion and politics will flay us so long as we wander into spaces where it is enforced — like .ly domains, apparently.

  2. Scary. I sure hope bit.ly is finding another way to shorten their name. They can’t be held hostage by Libya and we all know they eventually will be if they don’t act. It’s bad for their business. I do agree that Libya can do as they please with their internet name and follow and enforce their religious law. Just be up front about it.