We now boycott Bitly.com, which harms websites for what looks like political reasons

We now boycott Bitly.com, which harms websites for what looks like political reasons

Jan Oberg

August 28, 2023

Bitly.com is a New York-based company that creates short links, QR codes and link-in-bio pages. We’ve used it for years because it is practical to shorten long links on social media and elsewhere.


Last week, when TFF (in English) and I (in Danish) published a rather critical article about Denmark’s decision to supply 19 F16s to Ukraine, Bitly immediately blocked all links to these two articles so that when people clicked to read them, what they got was the sign above!

And not only that, Bitly did the same to all articles we’ve published back in time! People wrote in and asked what this meant – but soon found out that they could go to The Transnational and to Jan Oberg and read the articles directly.

It took Bitly more than 24 hours to come back – and with a blah-blah response, the first stating that “our Trust and Safety team conducts regular checks on all the links and blocks certain links for further review. Once the links pass the security check they are unblocked.”

So, this was a regular check. Strangely, it’s the first for 10+ years and hit simultaneously two accounts that I am responsible for…

When pointing that out, the issue was “escalated” to Brad Harris, Bitly’s director of Customer Support, and he escalated the blah-blah level – but interestingly points out that now it is not about a regular check. Now it is a bug: “I’ve reached out to our Trust & Safety team to look further into why your links may have been blocked. It looks as though there was a bug in our system that had erroneously suspended your account which is why you have experienced more than one link being blocked. Thankfully, this has allowed our team to fix this bug and it shouldn’t happen again to your account or our other customers. Our apologies for the inconvenience.”

To which I answered:

“Hi Brad Harris,

I regret to inform you that it is extremely difficult, rather impossible, for me to believe that what you tell me is the truth.

Why would such a bug suddenly appear in an account that has worked over many years? Why would it ”suspend” my account (not delete it) and how come I did not get a message from you as your client informing me that I had been suspended?

How would such a suspension be connected with the warning sign that the sites have been blocked? I mean, how would a suspended account prompt that message to the world? That blocking sign very clearly states what it can be about but not that Bitly bugs can suspend an account. As you very well know, it mentions website blocking list and that ”the link may have been reported to Bitly by a member of the public.” 

If it was what you said, why did it take you more than 24 hours to fix the problem? It would only take 1-2 min for competent support people to find out that my account was suspended. The fact is that the Bitly blocking happened quickly after I had published this article: ”Danish F16s to Ukraine: The lies and self-deception of war policy will make Denmark more insecure than Russia will ever be able to make it (a).”https://transnational.live/2023/08/21/danish-f16s-to-ukraine-the-lies-and-self-deception-of-war-policy-will-make-denmark-more-insecure-than-russia-will-ever-be-able-to-make-it-a/

In these times, this is more than enough for someone wanting to limit the freedom of the press and research. Instead of investigating first who I am and what the foundation I am the co-founder and director of is – and both a described all over the place and internationally respected for soon 40 years of research and public education for the United Nations norm that ’peace shall be established by peaceful means,’ – Bitly chooses to listen to some report and – in the most unpleasant, deliberately harmful and authoritarian manner – to block us throughout the many social media we use and cause harm to our eminent reputation as competent and trustworthy in times of fake and omission. 

Would Bitly ever have dared to block messages from the White House or any government? From leading think tanks with US support? You know the answer. You would be sued, and it would cost you an enormous sum. But we are small, independent, all-volunteer and decent – and that’s why your acceptance of somebody else’s or your own censorship caused this to happen.

And all you have the guts to say is: ”Our apologies for the inconvenience.”

Not that I expect it, but you are welcome to send me a more credible explanation. Until you do, I will continue to do what I told Sherry I will do. Because you are neither trustworthy nor decent.


Jan Oberg”

Brad Harris, of course, did not reply. What I got instead was another message from Sherry at Bitly Support, the first who had talked about regular check:

I am going to go ahead and escalate this ticket to our Level 2 Support team to assist you further. 
I appreciate your patience as we work to provide you with a resolution!
Kind regards,
Sherry | Bitly Support”

Wonder how many levels they have a Bitly!? Not that I care because I also contacted Bitly’s CEO. Tony Gabriner at his profile on Linkedin – of which he must get a notification. However, cowardly or unprofessionally or both: No answer a week later.

But a week later, a third explanation:

It looks like our systems falsely marked this link as positive for spam, therefore, we went ahead and unblocked it. Let us know if you encounter any issues going forward – happy to help!
Iris | Senior Support Specialist

Now it is … SPAM!!

Extremely authoritarian behaviour + Extremely slow processing + Extremely harmful + Extremely improbable, evasive replies = Extremely clearly doing things that Bitly shouldn’t do!

So, Bitly: Never again.

I suggest, dear reader, that you boycott Bitly too! There are many alternatives.

Recommended reading

In case you do not know about the role of tech companies in narrative maintenance, fake and omission and plain (counter)disinformation:

Lee Fang, How the FBI helps Ukraine intelligence hunt ‘disinformation’ on social media.

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