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The .ly domain space to be considered unsafe

I would like to warn current and future owners of .ly domains of a concerning incident regarding the deletion of one of our prime domains ‘’ by (the domain registry and controlling body for the Libyan domain space ‘.ly’).

In short:

The domain was seized by the Libyan domain registry for reasons which seemed to be kept obscure until we escalated the issue. We eventually discovered that the domain has been seized because the content of our website, in their opinion, fell outside of Libyan Islamic/Sharia Law.

This is deeply concerning for everyone, but especially .ly domain owners, because it sets a precedent that all websites running on a .ly domain must comply with Libyan Islamic/Sharia Law in order to maintain their domains. This is especially concerning for anyone running a url shortener or hosting user-generated content on a .ly domain.

You may also not know that since June 2010 .ly domains less than 4 characters long may no longer be registered by anyone who isn’t in Libya – which suggests there is tension around foreign owned, high-value, short .ly domains.

The full story:

Our domain ‘’ (which was joint owned by myself and my partner Violet Blue) was deleted by without warning or notice on or around September 23rd 2010. We were subsequently told that our domain has been removed to us being “in clear violation of NIC rules and regulations” relating to “text referring to adult content and offensive imagery from [our] main page”.

The regulations for .ly domains are available at Aside from the fact that we contest that any adult content or offensive imagery exists on the site ( is a url shortener), what is more concerning is that there does not appear to be any regulation(s) written on that page that actually pertains to the violation notice we were given.

In other words we felt that the registry was claiming it has deleted our domain for infringements that do not actually form any part of their regulations.

However after numerous emails and escalating the matter to directly, we were told by Mr Alaeddin S. ElSharif (Web services Dept. Telecom and Technology):

“…clause 3.5 clearly states that: “The Applicant certifies that, to the best of his/her knowledge the domain name is not being registered for any activities/purpose not permitted under Libyan law.”

Pornography and adult material aren’t allowed under Libyan Law, therefore we removed the domain…”

Again, while we contest that there was NO pornography or adult material on, I would suggest that there is a far more concerning issue here if domain registries can decide on the validity of a domain registration based on the content of the website that uses it. I would argue that the two are extricably decoupled and separate entities.

An additional concern is that the clause being used here pertains to Libyan Islamic Law which appears impossible to find listed in English.

This incident also follows on from a significant (but sadly unreported) recent decision by that as of June 2010:

“.LY domains that are shorter than 4 characters are only allowed for companies or individuals having presence in Libya.” [link]

Existing owners of such domains may renew but those premium domains are no longer open for registration by anyone who does not have a presence in Libya. Think about that, the domains for, (another set of url shorteners) and (advertising solution), would not be registrable now by foreigners. Previously, any domain available was available to anyone who wanted to register it.

We found this u-turn in registration policy surprising. We wonder whether having seen the ‘mini domain gold rush’ that occured with the .ly domain space, there is suddenly a desire – perhaps even pressure – to have local Libyans control some of the the most premium and valuable .ly domains.

With this already in our minds, we found the following line from the email communication we received about the deletion deeply concerning:

…your domain being removed from NIC.LY records and made available for re-registration for locals

We wonder whether this line suggests that in the back of the mind of the person deleting our domain was the motivation that a rare <4 letter .ly domain would suddenly become available for a local Libyan national to register.

I’m not against Libyans registering .ly domains; instead I suggest that realized too late the value of these premium domains and now there is clearly back-peddling going on to ensure they don’t all end up in the hands of non-Libyans. Further more, I wonder if there is pressure for to do what it can to recover premium <4 letter .ly domains where possible so that they end up back in the pool only available for locals to re-register Finally, I wonder whether are being pressured to go so far with this that they would even revoke domains for reasons that don’t specifically violate any of the regulations that domain owners agreed to upon registration.

.ly domain space to be considered unsafe

For these reasons I believe the .ly domains should be considered unsafe. Anyone running a business or relying on a website with a one, two or three letter .ly domain should be incredibly cautious. This obviously includes anyone who uses,, and any other similar url shortener.

I cannot see how the deletion of our .ly domain couldn’t happen to the owners of these domains too. In fact is hosting many, many links that depict the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), extreme pornographic subject matter, etc.

However, the fact that are asserting editorial control over the content of any website using a .ly domain is perhaps the most troubling to any .ly domain owner and indeed the internet community at large. Not only is it paramount to censorship and doesn’t reflect the decoupled nature of domains vs websites, but it sets a dangerous precedent in the space.

At the time of writing our domain is still revoked and our website is offline.

To sum up:

  • .ly domains deemed to be in violation of regulation are being deregistered and removed without warning – causing significant inconvenience and damage.
  • .ly domains are being deregistered and removed due to reasons that do not correspond to the regulations defined in the official Regulations.
  • seems to want to extend their reach beyond the domain itself and regulate the content of websites that use a .ly domain. The concept amounts to censorship and makes .ly domains untenable to be used for user-generated content or url shorteners.
  • Libyan Islamic/Sharia Law is being used to consider the validity of domains, which is unclear and obscure in terms of being able to know what is allowed and what isn’t.
  • have suddenly decided that <4 letter .ly domains should only be available to local Libyans and this appears to create motivation to recover what premium domains they can to go back into this new local-only pot of domains.

You can read more about this, including copies of email correspondence, over at Violet Blue’s TechYum website.

UPDATE: My partner Violet Blue (former co-owner of has a thought provoking review of the way this story has played out across the media today. Her site is slightly NSFW.

Published in News Thoughts and Rants


  1. Mark Mark

    If you are a URL shortener. Don’t you think you got booted because people are using your service to share links to Porn or other explicit material? The site itself probably doesn’t have offensive content but you probably redirect to tons of it.

  2. Ab Ab

    As a Libyan, I must say that I feel a sense of pride seeing and other such domains being used around the net.

    I hope that this bureaucratic mess doesn’t worsen anyone’s already low opinion of Libya. Say what you will about the government and the way it’s run, but the people are simple, kind and generous.

  3. Ben Metcalfe Ben Metcalfe


    I think it’s important to be clear my beef is with Libya Telecom ( – not with the Libyan people, or indeed the Muslim world.

    Someone above made a crappy remark about me including PBUH after referring the prophet Muhammad (PBUH)… I always do that because I’m educated about the Qur’an, Islam and very respectful of people of faith.

    I want it to be clear this is not against Islam or the Libyan people.

  4. […] imagery” and in opposition of Libya’s prevailing Islamic Sharia Law. According to Ben Metcalfe, who owns, Libya is also moving to take over any URLs with less than four letters in front of […]

  5. […] Ben Metcalfe: The .ly domain space to be considered unsafe Folks who want clever, short domains forget that real countries own those domains. is dependent on Libya to continue to operate. As a country governed by Sharia, that's not a great business plan. (tags: censorship libya domain) […]

  6. DavidK DavidK

    I thought two letter country domains were for websites in that country. It seems like they don’t need any more reason than that. You could move to Libya. Problem solved!

  7. tephlon tephlon

    What scares me most is that they are saying the domain can be bought by someone else. That’s going to be fun.

  8. SW SW

    Libya can do what they want, and we can do what we want. What I decided to do today, is to block access to the whole .ly TLD using Websense, for my 11,000 users. I encourage everyone to do the same. Likely they will hijack next and replace all shortened URLs with links to drive-by rootkit installs. They have shown their true, Muslim Extremist colors today – they clearly cannot be trusted.

    Websense blocks:

  9. SW SW

    If you don’t have Websense or similar, another option is to make your DNS server authoritative for the .ly TLD – better do it before it’s too late.

  10. No No

    Praise Be Upon Him???? His “religion” is EXACTLY what they’re doing here… be glad they just removed your domain and not your head…

  11. […] imagery” and in opposition of Libya’s prevailing Islamic Sharia Law. According to Ben Metcalfe, who owns, Libya is also moving to take over any URLs with less than four letters in front of […]

  12. Steve Steve

    That’s because of the risk the internet domain registration authorities took going off on a tangent since all the countries with interesting domain name letters internationally.

    Think of the .TV as an example that is now used by media companies, mostly television – quite obviously, and earning the tiny island nation of Tuvalu millions of dollars of additional income.

    What we probably need is an international domain name (I think there’s one called .int but other questions like where they are hosted also needs to be addressed) and there is definitely a .eu domain, which quite definitively identifies its location.

  13. […] Land die Top-Level-Domain .ly gehört. Es ist Libyen. Und die dortige Registrierungsstelle, erlaubt sich, Domains zu löschen, wenn ihr Inhalt der Sharia widerspricht. Unter diesen Umständen ist es etwas ungünstig, dass einer der größten Kurz-URL-Dienste […]

  14. […] The .ly domain space to be considered unsafe | :Ben Metcalfe Blog It didn't occur to me that .ly domain are Libyan. Interesting post about potential problems this could cause. […]

  15. Jeff Higgins Jeff Higgins

    Domain extensions shouldn’t be owned by or distributed by countries precisely for this reason. This is both tragic and pathetic, and it’s as much indicative of the problems of TLD distribution as it is of the problems of Muslim extremism.

    Countries like Libya don’t respect the open internet, therefore they should not be allowed to participate in the monetization of the internet in anyway (especially not by having access to the monetization of a valuable TLD).

  16. nope nope

    there is NO sharia law in Libya

  17. Twitter is mostly a waste, but you can glean some good links and one-liners. Without the links, it’s just people saying useless junk and trying to be funny.

  18. […] prompted Libyan NIC to delete the is not very clear but based on writeup of the blogs of Ben Metcalfe & Violet Blue, who own the domain it appears that the above picture with bare arms, a bottle, and the words […]

  19. A M A M

    Why do you have to say “Libyan Islamic/ShariaLaw”? Why can’t it just be “Libyan Law”?

    You apparently violated Libyan law and so they took your domain away. They’re well within their rights to do this, and now you’re just crying over spilt milk. I’m sorry your website doesn’t exist anymore, but honestly, you should have realised that buying a Libyan domain name was going to carry some risks.

  20. A M A M

    For future reference, here is a map showing the legal status of pornography in different countries. Next time, do a bit of research before doing business in foreign countries.

  21. Thankfully, saw this coming and has long supported the alternative domain:

  22. Moose Moose

    Ha! Well, what did you expect registering a Libyan domain? I mean really, you got what you deserve.

  23. clever dick clever dick

    hello mr. metcalf,

    may i just quote the letter you seem to have received (see end of comment) and point out that the reason was shut down is because it violated terms of service, not for “shariah law”. This is no different than a service provider shutting down a child pornographer or someone installing a virus. Moralities vary by society. The freedoms that most of us here in the US seem to espouse are mostly just conveniences to engage in whatever activities we would like to engage in. I find it deeply disturbing that a free society would wish to restrict the freedom of another society to believe what they believe. So, please, Mr. Metcalf, stop being the ingénue and start behaving like a responsible member of a free society.

    thank you

    letter quote

    “While letters ‘vb’ are quite generic and bear no offensive meaning in themselves,” he went on, “they’re being used as a domain name for an openly admitted ‘adult friendly URL shortener’. Now, had your domain merely been a URL shortener for general uses similar to (as you claim) there would have been no problem with it. It is when you promote your site being solely for adult uses, or even state that you are ‘adult friendly’ to promote it that we as a Libyan Registry have an issue.”

  24. dustin dustin

    FYI, it’s “” not “”

    Hopefully they’ve seen this post anyway…

  25. George R George R

    Please post the IP to use for so that I can fix my HOSTS file, router, or DNS?.

  26. Don’t put all your eggs in a country where you wouldn’t want to live.

  27. […] since it’s their country code. One user found that out the hard way yesterday, as the country deleted his domain because “the content of our website, in their opinion, fell outside of Libyan Islamic/Sharia […]



    Let me make it quite clear to you, you seem to missing the point theres a difference between the domain registry rules and those that are so called Shariah laws, basically you haven’t complied with the rules of the registry and have therefore relenquished all rights to your domain, fair game.

    I operate around 20-35 of these .ly domains I operate them as an International client (i.e. having payed the internation price) I am a Libyan citizen yet I do not even mention that anywhere in the body of my domains / registrant details to maintain professionalism. Why haven’t I been shut down?

  29. […] The .ly domain space to be considered unsafe | :Ben Metcalfe Blog – Backup Link […]

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