Is using an .ly domain right - or wrong?

Given the current conflict and unrest in Libya, should you use a .ly domain?
Written by Violet Blue, Contributor

A lot of people are wondering about using .ly (Libyan) domains now that casualties in the Libyan protests are mounting and the revolutions are more closely wed to technology than many could have ever imagined.

The large-scale demonstrations in Egypt were successful and inspired protests throughout the Middle East and North African countries such as Bahrain, Algeria, Iran, Libya and several others.

All of these have been huge and organized primarily through social media.

These oppressive governments have responded by arresting and using violence to try and stop the citizens' demands for reform. Libya has been killing protesters outright and with no remorse.

That cutesy –ly domain doesn't look so cute anymore

Cutting off the Internet was the initial salvo by governments to stop the flow of information.

The failed tactic first employed by Egypt – to shut the entire country off from Internet access – has been attempted in Libya in the form of what appears to be a sporadic internet curfew, in addition to a complete blackout of YouTube and Facebook access. The voices of Libya continued to be heard.

A lot of Internet denizens have been wondering about using those .ly domains – such as (sadly defunct) Bieber.ly or link shortener bit.ly.

The primary concerns are if using sites and services somehow contribute to the ongoing, increasing horrors enacted by the Libyan government on its citizens – and coldly, if the domains are stable. As in, will your bit.ly links still work?

I won't say "my" bit.ly links, because I won't use .ly domains. Last year I ran a small .ly link shortener vb.ly, only to have vb.ly seized by the Libyan government with no notice.

The Atlantic summed the Libyans' tardy explanations, which came late and with no recourse. My bare arms in a photograph were a primary reason. (I returned the service exactly as before on a .us domain.)

I remember trying to track down Libyan Spider admins and contacts through their Facebook pages when they'd abruptly deleted my domain and would not respond: now Libya has blocked Facebook so that would no longer be an option.

All .ly domains are administered through registrar Libyan Spider in accordance with the Libyan government "of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" and the General Assembly of “Libyan Internet Society.” They are not administered outside Libya.

When I paid my $75 a year (and renewed through August 2011, non-refunded), the money went to these entities, transferred through a US-based shopping cart system.

Obviously when you shorten a link with an .ly service you are not giving your own money directly to Libya – though when Mitt Romney read about my domain being seized, he felt his Mitt.ly was a show of support to Gaddafi and promptly dropped the domain. Other businesses (such as Clip.ly, now Curate.usandLeaf.ly, now redirected) simply changed URLs upon realizing the .ly domain space was simply unsafe.

There's the concern about committing social harm by using an .ly domain, and then there's concern about the risk of stability.

When Libya seemed to be trying to shut off its Internet and started murdering citizens with guns, RPGs and now fighter planes, the question was raised to bit.ly on Quora as to whether bit.y could be knocked offline.

Bit.ly's John Borthwick responded by explaining that Libya shutting off traffic would not affect "any .ly domain" stating that all (five) root servers would have to be knocked offline to take bit.ly out.

He was quick(ly) taken to task by people who reminded us that all Libya needs to do is anything to affect the registration operations of .ly – which would eventually mean that if Libya stayed off the internet for up to four weeks, that would be that.

Same goes for when – not if – the Libyan government decides to take a closer look at what all those cute .ly domains are being used for. As I learned the hard way, they will delete them without notice or recourse, taking all of your work and records with it.

My domain was seized based on Libyan law. There is a regime change underway. Libyan law is therefore a moving goalpost.

Since the incident, the terms of prohibition (and seizure) on .ly domains have been changed, and expanded to include:

(…) 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.

In principle, you are free to choose the domain name. However, you cannot choose names that are in use by other organizations, or names that for various reasons are prohibited or reserved for technical, ethical or national considerations.

Deciding whether or not using an .ly domain is "right" or "wrong"

Should Libyan Spider examine links being shortened on bit.ly and apply the same terms as to vb.ly, Libya would find it necessary to delete the domain. Under the terms above and in light of the current political event, even moreso.

If Libyan Spider, in concert with the Libyan government "of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" and the General Assembly of “Libyan Internet Society,” decided to look at all the protest information, free speech and anti-Gaddafi links being shortened on bit.ly – well, they won't like that one bit.

What do you think - is using an .ly domain the right thing to do, or not?

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