Should we be running our short URLs through a country we've been, you know, bombing?

Should we be running our short URLs through a country we've been, you know, bombing?

Summary: Somehow, my desire to provide you with a simple link to my Google Voice how-to articles turned into a story of geopolitics, coalition warfare, Sharia Law, and adult-friendly material. Gosh, I love this gig!

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TOPICS: Browser, Networking
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vb.ly screenshot, courtesy of our own violet.blue.

Somehow, my desire to provide you with a simple link to my Google Voice how-to articles turned into a story of geopolitics, coalition warfare, Sharia Law, and adult-friendly material. Gosh, I love this gig!

Here's the back story.

ZDNet has a mechanism for providing shortened URLs. If you subscribe to the @ZDNet Twitter feed, you'll notice a lot of links of the form http://zd.net/kvUkBz (this one happens to point to Denise Amrich's fun tea tech article).

I'd previously noticed that zd.net allowed vanity paths, and I wanted to create zd.net/googlevoicehowto that would point to my Google Voice articles.

Simple, right? So I asked my editors how to do it. Apparently, ZDNet has an enterprise license with Bit.ly, and we get our shortened URLs through Bit.ly's URL shortening engine.

Sigh. This is when I found I couldn't leave well enough alone.

Greaaaaaat. Not to be too snarky, but doesn't it seem a bit weird to run ZDNet Government URLs through a top-level domain of a country we've been, you know, bombing? Just sayin'.

For that's actually what's going on. The .ly in the bit.ly domain stands for Libya, and it's Libya's top-level country domain. The swell guys over at Bit.ly have built an entire business around a TLD from a country run by a complete whack-job who the entire Western world has a hate-on for.

Now, y'all know I'm neither a hawk nor a dove. Sure, I love me my military hardware. I'm not thrilled with spending tax dollars on it, but I go all gooey inside over anything that can break the sound barrier or bust underground bunkers. But that's more because I'm a gadget geek than because I want to see our troops sent into harm's way.

I also strongly disagree with America's participation in Operation Unified Protector (NATO's interdiction program in Libya) and Operation Odyssey Dawn (the tax-dollar suck that is America's part of the program).

I object to using America as international protector when we're currently fighting on two or more fronts, indebted up to our ears to a possible enemy state, and have far too many of our own citizens living without homes.

I object to helping other nations before we get our own house in order.

It just seems like we're behaving like that cousin we all have who enjoys telling us how to run our lives, but then hits us up for a loan because she's unwilling to find real work. It seems irresponsible, like it's easier to bomb some Libyans than protect our own citizens from the predatory practices of our health care, insurance, and banking industries.

But I digress. The subject of this article has to do with using a Libyan domain as the foundation for many of our URL redirects -- and my opinion of the general foolishness (and mock-worthy fun) of that practice.

Bit.ly's investors include Betaworks, RRE, AOL Ventures, O'Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures, Social Leverage, The Accelerator Group, SoftTech VC, Ron Conway, Josh Stylman, Pete Hershberg, David Shen Ventures, Jeff Clavier, Mitch Kapor, Howard Lindzon, Chris Sacca, and Founders Fund. Some of these investors are pretty clever folk.

ZDNet isn't alone in using bit.ly. Apparently USA.gov (uh, the official Web portal of the US Government) is using Bit.ly (and it's oh-so-Libyan domain name) to run some of its promotions.

Heck, if you can’t bomb a nation into letting you use their top-level domain, what good is having the ability to project power all over the world? Of course, the fact that usa.gov also uses bit.ly gives this whole thing a delicious irony.

Next: The sexy part of the story »

« Previous: Been there, bombed that

To be fair, America isn't at "coalition" with Libya just because of a domain name.

Oh, no. We're there to save the people from slaughter, to help the citizens see the wisdom of regime change, to wait, spending billions of dollars, for those self-same citizens to see the errors of their leaders' ways (and perhaps notice that inviting stockpile of guns over there, behind the Muam-Mart) and overthrow Gaddafi once and for all.

America doesn't "do" regime change. We just help it along, painfully slowly, bleeding American taxpayers, until we get a new regime, just like the old regime -- but with players willing to go along with our policies -- at least until the heat dies down on the new leaders and we in America forget about the billions we spent to get our way.

Also, to be fair, Bit.ly says the shortened URLs aren't really at much risk (or so they claim).

According to a Quora post by then Bit.ly CEO John Borthwick, only two of Bit.ly's root domain servers are in Libya. One other is in the Netherlands, and two are in Oregon. He claims Bit.ly URLs are safe. Of course, he's no longer Bit.ly's CEO, so come to your own conclusion.

Unfortunately, if the experiences of our own Violet Blue are any indication, Bit.ly's cherished .ly could certainly still be at risk. Back in 2009, Violet launched vb.ly, what she called "the Internet's first and only sex-positive URL shortener."

After about a year running this service, the Libyan government (one wonders if Muammar himself was doing some selective surfing) apparently came across Violet's vb.ly service.

The Libyans decided she was showing too little sleavage, saying the service had "offensive content and imagery." Apparently, the picture of her with her bare arms was "illegal," her beer bottle was also "illegal," and the words "sex positive" were also a Libyan no-no according to their laws.

Forbes also ran a piece about Violet's service, the key point in the Forbes piece being that -- apparently -- the Libyan government wasn't thrilled with anything that doesn't abide by Sharia Law. Sharia Law isn't exactly open-minded about women's issues, sex, or, well, pretty much any particularly modern thought or Western custom.

All of that, of course, brings us back to zd.net and bit.ly.

My original goal was to give you a nice, short URL if you're looking for help setting up Google Voice. That's been accomplished. You can just go to zd.net/googlevoicehowto. I've carefully gone back and re-read all my articles in the series, and I can't find more than five or ten places where my words might not have been compatible with Sharia Law.

So go get your Google Voice on now, while bit.ly still works. After all, even if we don't bomb Libya back into the Stone Age, there's no guarantee that -- when you base your URL shortening service in a country as completely fraked up as Libya -- the service won't be taken down on a whim.

Oh, and I have a couple of important suggestions to Bit.ly's current CEO, Peter Stern. First, wear long sleeves. Second, don't let your picture get taken and posted online if you go out drinking. Apparently, the Libyans don't have much of a sense of humor.

Just sayin'.

P.S. While Libya lost the revenue from Violet's vb.ly domain, we here at ZDNet got Violet on our team. So, Libya, heh, we won! Nyaaaaah, nyaaaaah!

Topics: Browser, Networking

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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22 comments
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  • Message has been deleted.

    Linux Geek
    • Sucks

      This comment system sucks badly
      nomorebs
    • Really?

      @Linux Geek I know you're a troll (I've read the redundant, mind-numbingly stupid posts you've been making lately), but how do even you translate wanting to take care of OUR citizens here in the U.S. first and not wanting to put our troops in danger unnecessarily as hating America? Doesn't that show the exact opposite sentiment? And did you just imply that all liberals hate America? The seems like a patently un-American sentiment to me, do YOU hate America?
      msoeguy
    • RE: Should we be running our short URLs through a country we've been, you know, bombing?

      @Linux Geek

      "I object to helping other nations before we get our own house in order."

      Compared to Libya your house is in order. How and when is being the richest country not enough to go and help those less fortunate than ourselves.

      In my view our first duty is to the planet, our second to each other, only then do we get into nationalism or religion.
      richard.e.morton@...
  • delete

    delete
    nomorebs
  • Why not?

    Now you want to give a negative connotation for the company behind b.i.t. l.y. Great. Exactly what we need, another business going belly under thanks to Gewirtz's bad publicity
    nomorebs
  • Why is ZDNet using an outside resource?

    I distrust "tiny" url services as it is.<br><br>The only reason I would click on any link starting with zd.net is the apparent mis-impression I <i>HAD</i> that zd.net was ran by ZDNet.com and that I would trust it.<br><br>What I don't get is why your using a url shortening service in the first place. ? If you can't make a subdomain with redirect links at ZDNet , you know, like r.zdnet.com/alfa-numeric redirect page, then even us marginal geeks have real cause to wonder about your computer literacy and other things.<br><br>To me thats the question, not if we can trust a service set up in a country we're bombing but <i>Why do you use an outside service in the first place?</i> Is it laziness? Lack of ability? What?
    rmhesche
    • RE: Should we be running our short URLs through a country we've been, you know, bombing?

      @rmhesche It was useful until they started blocking meatspin.com...
      Tommy S.
  • RE: Should we be running our short URLs through a country we've been, you know, bombing?

    My politics probably lean right, nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed this article. Thanks for having the courage to speak up on a potentially controversial subject, because I think you are spot on, and now I know something I didn't know before, and I'm glad to know it. Thanks again.
    Tom007
  • So I guess we should act like we hate them all?

    By your logic, if we are at odds with their government (not the Lybian people by the way) we should just isolate them?

    Concerning your remarks about helping others before our house is in order; another irrelevant remark. How is stopping the government of another country from killing their own people like a cousin telling others what to do? Seems selfish to me to not help save lives.

    Stick to IT, where you have a marginal chance of making a cogent point.
    dcristof
    • No, we shouldn't HATE them all...

      @dcristof

      ...the comment is that we should make our nation great once again before (if at all) imposing our will on other sovereign nations. Please explain how it is wrong to feel that we should get the homeless off our streets & fight the poverty & greed in our own country BEFORE we tell others how they should run their countries? We are making ourselves out to be complete fools by spending ourselves into oblivion, allowing massive injustices to our own people & then stating "do as we say, not as we do" to countries we don't even have a right to be in. Let them clean up their own messes. Let's clean up ours...
      rmazzeo
      • Years ago...

        @rmazzeo ...a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Regime, the US partnered with the Soviets and spent (and is still spending) billions of dollars in aid to convert the Soviet's Biochemical warfare labs into labs that created antidotes for the very weapons they had created during the cold war.

        On the surface, this would fall in line with your "wasted money in other country's pockets" theory. Unfortunately, the reality of the matter was much more complicated.

        After the collapse, most government run entities simply stopped being funded. This included all these scientists that had been working on these weapons for decades - they hadn't been paid in over 15 months. Imagine the rammifications - right here in the good ol' US of A - if one of those unpaid scientists had been approached to make a few pounds of a deadly virus or a few pounds of some chemical poison "disappear"?

        That money is well spent - far cheaper than having to bust down doors and deploy airborne drones over some country later. I bet there are all kinds of people that TODAY wish they had voted differently then rather than have to send our soldiers into Afghanistan and Iraq now. Just look at the current costs: A couple of Billion bucks a day!!

        Unfortunately it's a lesson we have to keep learning over and over again. Didn't Germany go into the Rhineland with WWI tanks only to invade Poland with new weapons a few years later? If the international will had stopped them earlier, could we have avoided WWII altogether?
        rock06r
  • RE: Should we be running our short URLs through a country we've been, you know, bombing?

    I'm still waiting for the sexy part...

    Oh, and I find ?offensive content and imagery" in a government killing it's own citizens, or in a bomber blowing up a sidewalk cafe.
    bb_apptix
  • David, an exemplification of the USA today

    David,

    You are one amorally confused man. I realize it is externally hard for most US nationals to construct a thought independent of what the corporate military media complex wants them to have and the education system does a poor job in fostering independent thought, nonetheless killing people for any reason is absolutely wrong, immoral and illegal. How would you feel if someone killed your children or loved ones with a bomb in the name of whatever they believed was justified? From your logic it is permissible of another nation to drop bombs on the USA to liberate it from the stolen elections by Bush or liberate it from the tyrannical Obama (as long as they have taken care of their nationals housing issues and not fighting too many other economically draining wars) ? all in the name of freedom and justice. I guess dropping bunker buster bombs on L.A., New York or some other place like your home town is OK then, no? After which some (I?ll let you fill this next adjective) would write a blog not about the death, destruction, legality and morality of it but rather how it could affect the transmission of information in his overly regulated and controlled life.

    P.S. get a clue, no nation, association or collation would engage in this violation of Libya?s sovereignty if its major resource were broccoli, after all look at the many other wars on the continent of Africa, where was the USA and team to liberate those people from their ?tyrants??

    Starbuck?s anyone?the smell of napalm early in the morning makes me thirsty.
    mario@...
    • Whoa there Buckaroo!

      @mario@...
      There is a world of difference between a corrupt election (assuming you believe it even was so) or a heavy-handed Administrator (tyrannical? really??) and a government that is attacking and killing its own citizenry for the crime of disagreement.

      Whether we should have troops there or not, the killing of a nation's own citizens for political dissent is a WORLD AWAY from a Court deciding which ballets are valid and which are not.

      I'm neither agreeing nor disagreeing with any of this, I'm just pointing out the fallacy of your comparison.
      use_what_works_4_U
  • RE: Should we be running our short URLs through a country we've been, you know, bombing?

    Could only stand to speed read the artcle and most of the talk backs so I know I skipped a lot, but there wasn't anything to give me enough interest.
    While I suspect much of the US business must be in Oregon, the assortment of places used was completely ignored, near as I could tell!
    I wasted my time even speed-reading the first sentence of each para.
    tom@...
  • RE: Should we be running our short URLs through a country we've been, you know, bombing?

    This comment: <i>It seems irresponsible, like it?s easier to bomb some Libyans than protect our own citizens from the predatory practices of our health care, insurance, and banking industries.</i> means that you have failed to grasp the meaning of the term <b>"red herring"</b>

    Pointing the finger at "the other guy" like Khadafy (or however in hell he spells his name!), or Saddam or that whackjob in Iran; only amounts to a distraction in the world of politics.

    Yes, the people want to talk about these issues (protect our own citizens from the predatory practices of our health care, insurance, and banking industries); the problem lies in the fact that the politicians, and the associated <s>influence buyers</s> (oh, excuse me, I meant "lobbyists") don't want us to figure out what hey are doing.

    After all, more people are interested in the winner of "American Idol" or the "Casey Anthony trial" (some would say travesty of justice); then they would care to engage in real dialog about fixing the nation's problems, without having to resort to such name calling as <i>rethuglican</i> and <i>demoncrap</i>. It has been a tried and true strategy, demonize your your political opponents; and deflect criticism.
    fatman65535
  • RE: Should we be running our short URLs through a country we've been, you know, bombing?

    You misspelled Violet's name in your link on the second page. It ain't Voilet.
    vulcan666
  • Houses in order...

    "I object to helping other nations before we get our own house in order."
    Let's stand this quote up alongside a more famous one: "How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing!" - Neville Chamberlain, on his famous "peace for our time" agreement with Adolf Hitler.
    Be glad that the next one is made-up: "While we would dearly love to assist the peoples of Britain, France, Poland, and the other nations of Europe, we are still mired in the malaise of the great depression, and need to get our own house in order before we can intervene in the quarrels of other nations." - (thankfully not said by) Franklin D. Roosevelt
    Old Rockin' Dave
  • RE: Should we be running our short URLs through a country we've been, you know, bombing?

    @macadam
    @mario@... Makes a hell of a lot of sense you DON'T!
    johnpall@...