Internet Bosses Approved New .XXX Domain for Porn Sites

Online voyeurs may soon have a place on the Internet to call their own, after an international body managing the world’s Internet addresses approved this week a new top-level domain for porn sites.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which governs the website naming system, yesterday approved the creation of a top level '.xxx' domain, opening the way for a red-light district online for pornographic websites. Photo: Wiki

After a 8-year battle, the agency governing Internet addresses on Friday approved the creation of a new internet domain specifically for pornography, but the decision may not end years of fighting over the contentious plan.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) authorized the creation of an .xxx suffix for pornography Web sites. The decision was immediately slammed by some of the sex industry’s biggest names.

Proposals to create a new adults-only domain date back as far as 2003 when moves to open up the number of major domain names were announced by the ICANN, which administers millions of internet addresses.

However, ICANN blocked the plan in 2007 after long deliberations and threats in the U.S. from the Bush government, which opposed the creation of .xxx on moral grounds and said it would override ICANN if necessary.

But on Friday, the board of ICANN said that it would allow the .xxx domain to be overseen by ICM Registry – the backer of the scheme – although a number of board members reportedly opposed the resolution.

Industry members say they fear they could be subject to arbitrary censorship by governments and even by a new board overseeing the dot-xxx domain. They also say the plan would unfairly force existing pornography sites to register their sister domain names ending in xxx to prevent other businesses from using the names.

Diane Duke, executive director of the adult entertainment industry’s Free Speech Coalition, said in a statement that ICANN has ‘disregarded overwhelming outpouring of opposition from the adult entertainment industry – the supposed sponsorship community’ and dismissed the ‘interests of free speech on the Internet’.

“Our industry is unanimously opposed,” she added. Ms. Duke also said that she expected the association’s members, which include companies like Hustler and Adam & Eve, to continue to use dot-com addresses. She also said the association was considering its legal options.

The dot-xxx registry was also opposed by some religious groups, who feared that the new domain would lead to the further spread of pornography on the Internet.

The decision is a big win for ICM Registry, a Florida-based company that first applied for the dot-xxx domain in 2004. ICM will oversee the domain and profit from it. Its chief executive, Stuart Lawley, dismissed his detractors.

“The opposition has been very small and very vocal,” he said. “It has been completely overblown.” He said that the first .xxx websites would be going live by June or July of this year.

“For the first time there will be a clearly defined web address for adult entertainment, out of the reach of minors and as free as possible from fraud or malicious computer viruses,” he said.

He added sites in the dot-xxx domains would be scanned daily for viruses and would be offered a payment-processing system that customers would be able to trust.

“Everybody wins,” said Mr. Lawley. “The consumer of adult sites wins. The providers will benefit because more people will become paying customers. And those who don’t want to go there will win as well, because the sites will be easier to filter.”

Mr. Lawley said tens of thousands of businesses had already reserved some 230,000 dot-xxx domains. Each registration will cost $60 a year.

According to a statement released by ICM Registry, the new domain name will be regulated by IFFOR, which was described as an independent non-profit entity made up of a seven-person policy council, including a child protection representative, a privacy and security expert and representatives from the pornography industry.

Peter Dengate Thrush, the chairman of the ICANN board, said in an interview that the vote vindicated the accountability of his organization. The corporation had originally opposed the application by ICM Registry in 2007. But after ICM appealed, the organization tentatively reversed that vote in June, and said that its decision to give the project a green light was made purely on technical grounds.

“This is a test of our accountability mechanisms,” Mr. Thrush said. “In the end, I think the system was able to cope with a contentious matter. We are trying to build a self-regulating industry, and this is self-regulation at work.”

Mr. Thrush said that some established Web sites probably opposed the new dot-xxx domains for business reasons. “We heard from a number of them that they didn’t want it,” Mr. Thrush said. “The board wasn’t persuaded by their arguments. They are incumbents, and they are trying to oppose a new entrant.” [ICANN via Mashable, Daily Mail (UK) and NY Times]

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