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WEB HOSTING NEWS

Waiting for the .xxx Domain
By: Terri Wells
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    2005-09-14

    Table of Contents:
  • Waiting for the .xxx Domain
  • The Rationale for .xxx
  • The Politics of .xxx
  • .xxx from a Web hoster’s Perspective

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    Waiting for the .xxx Domain - The Politics of .xxx


    (Page 3 of 4 )

    The ICM Registry, the nonprofit organization that is currently proposing the .xxx domain, first proposed it to ICANN in 2000. In November 2000, ICANN rejected the application. This move raised a firestorm of protest among politicians of both stripes. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, wanted to know why ICANN turned down .xxx “as a means of protecting our kids from the awful, awful filth, which is sometimes widespread on the Internet.” Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, told a federal commission that the .xxx domain would encourage proprietors of adult websites to “abide by the same standard as the proprietor of an X-rated movie theater.”

    Five years later, ICANN has approved the .xxx domain, but other parties have raised concerns, delaying the ICM registry from going live. To its credit, ICM voluntarily agreed to a one-month delay to address these concerns. Indeed, everything about the way ICM is conducting this is on the level. Stuart Lawley, chairman of the ICM Registry, said that his company would charge $60 per domain name and handle the technical aspects of running the .xxx domain. Resellers could be expected to add their own mark-up of $10 to $15 per domain name. A second nonprofit organization, the International Foundation for Online Responsibility, would set the rules for the .xxx domain. Among other rules, proprietors would be forbidden to post or deal in child pornography. Lawley gives himself only one vote on IFFOR’s seven-member board of directors, which will also include a child advocacy person, a protector of free expression, and at least one person from the adult entertainment industry.

    Unfortunately, opposition to .xxx seems to have grown over time. Michael Gallagher, assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce, reported that “The Department of Commerce has received nearly 6,000 letters and emails from individuals expressing concern about the impact of pornography on families and children.” Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi, chairman of ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee, spoke of the concern that several countries expressed about the .xxx domain. In a letter to ICANN’s Board of Directors, he stated that, based on these concerns, “I believe the Board should allow time for additional governmental and public policy concerns to be expressed before reaching a final decision on this TLD.” The viewpoint of some of those opposed to the .xxx domain was expressed by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who believes that “Pornographers will be given even more opportunities to flood our homes, libraries, and society with pornography through the .xxx domain.”

    Some civil libertarians have also expressed concern. Though getting a .xxx domain would be voluntary, the American Civil Liberties Union fears that some countries might force sites that deal with topics such as homosexuality or birth control to get .xxx domains, thus allowing them to be more easily filtered and squelching free speech and a diversity of viewpoints. Indeed, some believe there will be pressure in this country to make the .xxx domain mandatory for proprietors of adult websites. “You’re definitely going to find some pressure on sex sites to move there,” said David Greene, director of the First Amendment Project. And some commentators believe the existence of “adult zones” on the Internet might increase the likelihood that a future version of the Communications Decency Act would be regarded as constitutional.

    To many people, though, the most disturbing aspect is the fact that the Bush administration could trump ICANN’s approval of the .xxx domain. ICANN falls under the purview of the U.S. Department of Commerce. A government report completed several years ago stated that the department has “reserved final policy control over the authoritative root server.” 

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