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News > March 2007

29-Mar-2007

Adult Domain Proposal Discussed Behind Closed Doors

Yesterday in Portugal, Government advisers deliberated behind closed doors but issued no public statement on a plan to give the online adult sites their own home through a voluntary ".xxx" domain name.

A formal statement was expected Thursday from the Governmental Advisory Committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN.

Although a GAC recommendation isn't binding, it carries weight with ICANN's board, which scheduled a vote Friday. The proposal's backers, ICM Registry LLC, already have returned with stronger contract language to address the committee's concerns last March.

ICANN has rejected ".xxx" proposals twice since 2000 and already has discussed the latest version during three, closed-door teleconference meetings this year. The board expects to close the matter Friday.

Although the domain's use by porn sites would be voluntary, the proposal ensnares issues of access and freedom of speech, with many in the adult-entertainment industry worried that its creation would make government regulation tempting.

ICM has vowed to fight any government efforts to compel its use and cited pre-registrations of more than 76,000 names - with more arriving daily - as evidence of industry support. Lawley said ICM also has received more than 1,200 "direct expressions of support from webmasters."

Critics contend that many Web address' have reserved names simply to prevent someone else from taking them.

Meanwhile, religious groups worry that ".xxx" would legitimize and expand the number of adult sites, which more than a third of U.S. Internet users visit each month. Web statistics show that 4 percent of all Web traffic and 2 percent of all time spent Web surfing involved an adult site.

Paul Twomey, ICANN's chief executive, described the proposal Monday as "clearly controversial, clearly polarizing."

ICANN tabled and effectively rejected a similar proposal in 2000 out of fear the ".xxx" domain would force the body into content regulation.

ICM resubmitted its proposal in 2004, this time structuring it with a policy-setting organization to free ICANN of that task. But many board members worried that the language of the proposed contract was vague and could kick the task back to ICANN. The board rejected the 2004 proposal in May 2006.

ICANN revived the issue in January after ICM agreed to hire independent organizations to monitor porn sites' compliance with the new rules, which would be developed by a separate body called the International Foundation for Online Responsibility.

ICM revised it again a month later to clarify ICANN's enforcement abilities and to underscore the independence of the policy-making body.