I, For One, Welcome Our New TLD Overlords With Bare Arms

by Violet Blue on October 6, 2010

The now: in bed in formal dress before going to the @Zivity VIP charity auction

First, let me tell you that there were a LOT of racist and scary comments that I did *not* approve today. I almost approved the one that just said “I drink wee!” but then I came back. Sometimes it’s the little things.

…and The Webbie for Best Short Summary Of A Shitstorm goes to PCMag in Libya Seizes URL Shortener Vb.ly (pcmag.com).

If you’re coming to this blog, or this post, and want to get up to speed you can read this previous post where I explain in detail that the Libyan government took back a domain (vb.ly) that I had been running as a URL shortener for 13 months. They gave me no reason. Then, vague reasons. Then when I pushed back, they said it was because I was against the law — laws that are not on the registrar’s website, laws that are not anywhere in English, and laws that are even still being hotly debated on blogs, in comments and in media even still at this hour. These laws, the laws of Libya, were applied to my domain very late, and are not being applied to other .ly domains. (Well, I learned this has happened before, in the past 10 months, and then perversely offered back for sale to the original registrars).

CNet got every detail correct in Libyan legal issue takes down URL shortener (news.cnet.com).

Anyway, they said that a picture of me with my bare arms was illegal, my bottle of beer also illegal, and the words “sex positive” also, illegal according to the laws I was never shown, and were never applied throughout my first year of registration. They also said they tried to contact me to tell me I was in violation. I received no alleged communication. When I asked to see the communication they sent me, I was told I was running an illegal operation and that was that. I was also assured that they were sure the third party they asked to contact me to warn me had probably tried to contact me. Probably. Because they said so.

It’s all in the post.

Award for best and most educational comment thread, trolls notwithstanding goes to the item as discussed in Y Combinator / aka Hacker News (news.ycombinator.com). Anyone researching this should read the comments. Chilling effect, indeed.

No one tried to contact me. They took the domain without warning. The reasons are basically, because they said so. Unlike others, who had their .ly domains taken down swiftly for inappropriate content, I ran my link shortener for over a year. There was never any porn on the site — until someone decided to apply the extreme end of Libyan law — over a woman’s bare arms, and the very word “sex.” Because I said it was sex-positive, and not flatly “anti porn” is the dealbreaker between vb.ly and bit.y, they told me: but I guarantee you that there is far, far more porn coursing through bit.ly’s veins than vb.ly’s. They just don’t say anything about it.

Forbes listed the man first, and as the domain owner, but I’ll give that up because the article is great and states the issue openly in the headline: Libya Revoking .ly Domains That Don’t Adhere To Sharia Law (blogs.forbes.com).

And also, Libyan Spider seemed to be going through what they thought were the low-hanging fruit of short domains. As was pointed out, the short-domain “gold rush” had a lot of people buying cutsey .ly domains, and the Libyan Spider/Nic.ly resellers marketed to not just the world, but actively, direct to Western markets — look at their rep’s Twitter feed for examples.

This kind of head-on, between faith-based initiatives and the Internet, was inevitable. Did I see it coming? There have been a few told-you-so’s today, but reason states that those told-you’s should have come when vb.ly launched and got national press in the same week. Or a month later. Three months later. Six — or I should not have been reminded to renew my domain, and then been allowed to, and have the receipt in hand. It’s like a 5-second rule with told-you’s — or a wow, something’s not right here. You can now say “I told you so” when they take out bit.ly. Yeah, “it’s not Kansas, Dorothy” — but people today are honestly asking me where the porn was on vb.ly.

Amazing.ly it seems that Mitt Romney might just be a fan after all. Check out VB.ly, Bit.ly and Mitt.ly in danger? Oh real.ly? Trouble in .ly domain land. (voices.washingtonpost.com)

Either way, yeah, it’s their country and they can do what they want. As we see, they don’t even have to be fair about it. Their ball, they take it and go home. Say what you will about me: I wasn’t trying to “put one over” on anyone (and if I did, it sure lasted a long time and made a lot of people happy), but what happened here can happen to anyone running a business off of an .ly domain. Will owl.ly be combed for offensive language, unlawful images and condoning or encouraging “illegal practices” by not enforcing Libyan laws on user generated content? Will bit.ly be taken out for illegal activities for allowing — or just giving the side-eye — to porn URLs to be shortened? My question is, what is the takeaway here?

Can we expect even, or uneven, enforcement of Libyan law and its moral laws on all .ly domains?

Or just the one with the girl with the bare arms, and the words “sex positive” above her head.

Now knock back your omg she’s linking to those bitches tsk tsk because I’m saying it: Ryan Tate was the hammer in This ‘Obscene’ Image Led Libya To Shut Down an American Website (gawker.com). That was it. My right to bare arms was the final reason, and it should not be forgotten. He didn’t link to me, but that’s to be expected.

Thanks for listening, it’s been a long day. And to the person who asked why we went with an .ly domain in the first place, it was because we read and re-read all the rules in the Terms of both sites, and we were not in violation of any of the rules (nor could they point us to which rule on their websites that we’d violated in our first rounds of support tickets and service emails). They actually never provided me with the actual Libyan laws that had been broken nor a link to anywhere where I can read them.

Hey, so now we all know. Nothing.

Best email of the day: “you got libyan villains with excellent email writing skills, and you got to show what faith-based initiatives do to the web – love it”. I also got to introduce the term “sex-positive” to other cultures, notably Mitt Romney’s. I saw that as usual, a girl can be at the center of an absolute media category-five hurricane and still no one will link to her. I also saw that I can remain totally silent for 24 hours while the storm rages and still get called a “famewhore” in comments. Don’t make Julia Allison cry!

Best line was “Apparently the above picture of Ms. Blue showing bare arms, and holding a beer, was also deemed “offensive” under Libyan law.”
A sex-positive angel just got her wings. (technobuffalo.com)

Violet Blue

The London Times named Violet Blue "One of the 40 bloggers who really count" and Self Magazine named TinyNibbles one of the “Best Sex Resources for Women.” Blue is an autodidact and pundit on sex and technology, hacking and security, porn for women, privacy and bleeding-edge tech culture. She is a journalist for ZDNet, CBS News, CNET; she's an educator, speaker, crisis counselor, volunteer NGO trainer, and the author and editor of over 40 award-winning books.

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{ 15 comments }

1 MaxWilder October 18, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I looked you up after hearing about this controversy. Just wanted to say that it looks like you are doing a great thing here. Hopefully someday the whole Sharia Law thing will be mocked by schoolchildren along with Leviticus.

BTW, I’m pretty sure you’re not getting linked because of your NSFW content. Just another painful reminder of the annoying puritanical remnants in modern US society. Despite the fact that pretty much every technological advance ever has been driven by porn (only a slight exaggeration), the mainstream media still wants to pretend they are somehow separate from such things.

2 Bacchus October 8, 2010 at 7:21 am

“There have been a few told-you-so’s today, but reason states that those told-you’s should have come when vb.ly launched and got national press in the same week.”

I’ll admit I kind of had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach when you announced vb.ly — the thoughts running through my head, not this well articulated, were sort of “Libya? Violet? I don’t see that ending well.” But I wouldn’t have dreamed of “telling you so” at the time, I know you well enough to know you and to know that you do your due diligence, I could have predicted to a fare-thee-well that you’d have quoted chapter and verse your intended compliance with all available TOS and policies, just as you have with Flickr and Facebook and probably some other culturally-conservative behemoths I’m forgetting at the moment that decided they didn’t like your kind even though you were following their vague and petty rules per the letter but not per the “you’re fine as long as you don’t upset the applecart” spirit.

It’s part of your charm (I mean this sincerely, no snark, you know I’ve never snarked you) that you are willing to rely on rules and TOS and such, and summon outrage (even wearily) when your compliance therewith avails you so little. The powerful, of course, don’t consider themselves bound; they look at “what are my interests, how can this person/organization hurt me if I do what I want?” and if they see nothing to deter them, they do what they want. Worse, they get into the habit of thinking themselves invulnerable, so they omit the inquiry step; that’s how you get into your periodic grudge-fuck dance with Flickr, where some brainless functionary abuses your account beyond all reason (since most people dealing with Flickr are utterly without recourse, this is safe) until you can create enough internet noise/pain to wake the dinosaur pea/brain of someone higher in the organization who can undo the damage.

I AM bummed vb.ly did not work out, I cannot begin to imagine how much work you must have put into getting it up and running.

3 violet October 7, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Redme, no – no refund. they took the domain and kept my money. on a fresh renewal!

4 Redme October 7, 2010 at 11:59 am

So did you get a refund on paying for this .LY shortener ?

5 Christopher October 7, 2010 at 9:00 am

Does anyone know if some country somewhere has .fw as their domain? Having the sex-pos shortener ns.fw would be awesome…

6 Christopher October 7, 2010 at 8:55 am

I have to agree with what I’ve seen others saying on the whole topic: everyone needs to ditch their .ly domains and move to something else, and then either try to get their money back (not likely) or just not renew when it runs out. Libya will feel the loss of money when that happens, and maybe someone will get beheaded over it. Or not. Either way, can’t trust them.

7 Scott October 7, 2010 at 7:43 am

Violet,

I was just curious, with all of this, if you had any opinions on Google’s “new” url shortener, goo.gl?

8 Tom October 7, 2010 at 5:44 am

Heh… C|Net had the story on their site, this morning. Even they couldn’t be bothered to link here. I had to find this post via Google search.

On the plus side, it allowed me to “discover” a link to StumbleUpon. So, maybe that will drive you some traffic. ;)

9 Jason October 7, 2010 at 4:39 am

The “right to bare arms” is a *perfect* description. While people are correct that the country domain can do as it wants, they still behaved like schmucks.

Most likely, a certain crackpot dictator was busted for looking, and he said he was investigating the problem. sigh.

10 David October 7, 2010 at 4:01 am

In the spirit of link shortening (okay, okay… I’m lazy), I’ll just say I second ever single thing Michael said.

Keep up the good work!

11 LibertyVini October 7, 2010 at 2:53 am

It isn’t about puritanism, it is all about M-O-N-E-Y. When will we as a civilization learn that when we get involved with government, sooner or later we WILL get fucked? (Not in a good way.)

12 Michael Cuffe October 7, 2010 at 1:22 am

Violet,

Your probably the only blogger who’s articles I read from beginning to end. Honestly, with a story like this and your FB account being shut down, it shines a bright light on the puritanism that runs strong on the internet.

Your documentation, explanation, and conveying of events that unfold regarding your sites are not only informative, but also intriguing. You bring up many great points, and even many more questions regarding the role of women in today’s world of sex and culture.

Keep up the awesome work, and thanks for fighting the good fight.

- MWC

13 David null Carroll October 7, 2010 at 1:12 am

It seems to me Ms. Blue, that you only get lots of press when someone is fucking you over (and not in a good way).

The world still needs a sex positive URL shortener.

14 violet October 7, 2010 at 12:54 am

mark, thanks for commenting. I saw the no-linking a lot, and was glad to see some validation in this comment:

http://www.tinynibbles.com/blogarchives/2010/10/official-vb-ly-link-shortener-seized-by-libyan-government.html#comment-9733

I don’t think it was exclusively gender biased (of course I can only guess). it just happened, that’s all.

15 mark October 7, 2010 at 12:12 am

“I saw that as usual, a girl can be at the center of an absolute media category-five hurricane and still no one will link to her.”

I find that hard to believe. No one is linking to anyone these days, do you really think its cos of your gender? Got any evidence of that?

This whole debacle shows us that any site operating off a ccTLD needs to beware, and give serious consideration to launching a new domain now and 301ing immediately to get the new urls indexed.

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