Sex-Positive vb.ly Taken Down by Libyan Domain Provider

Violet Blue.jpg

URL shortening website vb.ly has been disabled by Libyan authorities after domain registry NIC.ly (also known as Lybia Spider) ruled that it had violated its terms and conditions. Headed by Ben Metcalfe and Violet Blue since August 2009, the site was abruptly shut down right after the two co-founders renewed its domain a few weeks ago. As a site that encourages an open online environment in which users can feel free to upload NSFW links and adult content along with non-adult sites, the front page of vb.ly featured Blue about to take sip from a beer bottle with the tag line, “the Internet’s first and only sex-positive URL shortener.” After the site was taken off the Internet, Blue posted a thorough and updated account of her correspondence with Alaeddin S. ElSharif, a web services representative from Lybian Telecom and Technology. According to his letter:

“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?”

In her post, Blue responds:

“We intended vb.ly to be a link shortener that celebrated tolerance and provided an alternative to other link shortening services whose terms were vague, and possibly loosely interpreted and thus subject to change, around human sexuality. It was made to be a service where you CAN put NSFW links, but not *exclusively* for non-worksafe links. ... All we wanted to provide was a link shortener that was nonjudgmental and secure in a landscape where all genders and orientations are faced with discrimination, and when the subject of sex is mentioned, often face losing accounts, along with censorship and unwarranted deletion.”

Blue points an accusatory finger at LTT for not warning her and Metcalfe prior to the shutdown. Although the two made a payment to renew their domain registry for another year, which NIC.ly successfully received, they did not contact either Metcalfe or Blue to inform them of the impending takedown.

NIC.ly states that URLs shorter than four letters will now be available only to organizations within Libya. But for now, other URL shortener sites like bit.ly appear safe. (Interestingly enough, HuffPo Technology Editor Bianca Bosker mentions that the domain fuk.ly remains accessible.) But the abrupt action of Lybian authorities raises a question that affects a huge number of Twitter and Web 2.0 users. Will other American competitors in the business of URL shortening will find their fates under the discretion of a country on the other side of the world?

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