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James Perrin

The Mistaken.ly Strong Libyan Connection

8th Apr 2011 Social Media, Twitter 2 minutes to read

Who would have thought URL shortening services would ever be the cause of acute political embarrassment? Well, thanks to services like Ow.ly and Bit.ly, celebrities, governments and even anti-war campaigners have been hosting content on Libyan owned domains. Whoops.ly!

If someone told you that the US were helping and aiding Libya in receiving more web traffic, what would you think? After all, they are in the middle of military action and have imposed economic sanctions against Gadhafi’s regime, so why would they want to direct traffic to Libya?

In truth, most were probably entirely unaware of the connection. Jess Bravin of the Wall Street Journal has revealed a story concerning the blundering actions of the UN, NATO, the US Air Force, the FBI, and the White House to name but a few. Whenever these organisations tweeted using internet domains controlled by the Gaghafi regime, they were using .ly domains that were controlled by the Libyan government. Sounds like a brilliant script for a satirical comedy doesn’t it?

Well unfortunately, for the US government at least, this isn’t fictional and is very much real. However, according to Bravin, it’s not just the military and political bigwigs who have been caught out. Charlie Sheen, Paul McCartney and Kim Kardashian along with millions of others have been using these sites too.

So what’s the issue? Well apart from the incredible irony, it also looks embarrassing on the behalf of the US government. The .ly domains are controlled by a Mohammed el-Gadhafi, the Colonial’s eldest son. Services such as bit.ly and owl.ly allow users to shorten lengthy URLs so they can be tweeted using less characters; they have begun springing up all over the internet as a result of their free and easy access.

Not all .ly domains are actually addressed to Libya, with many English speaking countries such as the UK and US renting 43% of the .ly domains. So with the political unrest in Libya, will the .ly domain names be affected?

Well according to Leena Rao of Tech Crunch, possibly. The e-mail subscription start up company Letter.ly had lost its domain name as a direct result of the unrest in Libya. Whilst this makes it worrying for companies to rely on.ly domains, it doesn’t necessarily mean other owners of .ly domain names need to worry. This is because Letter.ly actually forgot to renew their domain name before it expired. After which they were not able to renew the domain.

To cut a long story short (no pun intended) .ly domains have benefited immensely from Twitter thanks to thousands of users sharing sharing links and the 140 character embargo. The real story here though focuses on the lackadaisical US government and their inadvertent connection with the Libyan regime, ironic.ly enough! So the lesson to be learnt is to always make sure you know what domains you’re using at all times and where they’re based – especially if you’re carrying out military action against the host nation.

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