Ever use Bit.ly or Ow.ly to shorten a URL inside Twitter? Or Tru.ly to verify someone's identity? Or Letter.ly to send email newsletters? You probably aren't aware of it, but you've been indirectly helping support a crazy-ass North African dictator.
A story in last Friday's Wall Street Journal points out the now painfully obvious fact that all .ly domains use the country code top-level-domain (ccTLD) assigned to Libya. To obtain a .ly address on the Web, you must fork over $75 to a registrar approved by Libya Telecom and Technology, which is run by the government of Libya. In other words, you're putting money in Gadhafi's pocket.
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Of course, $75 is chicken feed compared to all the other money in Gadhafi's pocket. But when you're at not-war with the man, it's the principle that counts. As the Journal's Jess Bravin points out, many would-be Libya foes have used URL shortening services like Bit.ly:
Where have the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the U.S. Air Force directed Twitter followers to learn more about military action in Libya? To an Internet domain controlled by the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
They aren't the only ones to send their Internet followers through Libya. So have House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Stanford University, Charlie Sheen, the White House, Kim Kardashian, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Paul McCartney, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and thousands of others.
Don't blame them, or even Bit.ly or Ow.ly. Blame adverbs. They're the real culprits for our dependence on ".ly." OK, you can blame Kim Kardashian -- but not Khloe, Kourtney, or Kris.
The United States has always had a love/hate relationship with Libya -- love their oil, hate Gadhafi. Heck, we even have "the shores of Tripoli" in the iconic U.S. Marines anthem, and now it's come back to bite all those verb-modifying URLs.