You’re probably not going to believe this one …
Most of you know that countries other than the U.S. have URL extensions — you know, you write to your friend in England and their address ends in .UK.
Some of you may know that some countries have made money by selling the right to use their internet extension: either because they won’t use all their possible addresses, or because they need quick cash. At some level, some of that traffic can and does get routed through Libya as routers “phone home”, even if it has nothing to do with the country.
And some of you may know that various people and services use URL shorteners.
Now combine those 3 points: Twitter relies on a service called Bit.ly to shorten URLs for use on their 140 character limited system — and Bit.ly purchased rights to use Libya’s country extension: Ly.
Libya has actually sold rights to a lot of people who want to be able to add the ly extension to their URL to spell something cute.
There are 5 “ly” servers in the world: 2 in Libya, 2 in Oregon, and 1 in the Netherlands. Those last 3 have to “phone home” to the Libyan routers periodically.
That’s right … Libya has some power to hold Twitter hostage.
That’s right … the same Libya that is bombing its own people, and has hired mercenaries to use ambulances to as cover to fire on protesters.
In managerial economics this is called a hold-up problem, but the name is more apropos than usual in this case.