Arts and Culture

Plans for '.xxx' porn net domain revived

Staff Reporter

Nearly three years after plans to create a new internet domain specifically for pornography were blocked, the idea could be back on the table.

Nearly three years after plans to create a new internet domain specifically for pornography were blocked, the idea could be back on the table once again.

An arbitration panel at the International Centre for Dispute Resolution has ruled that the original decision to prevent the introduction of a new adults-only domain, .xxx, should be reconsidered.

The scheme—which proposed a new internet address that would help people filter out explicit material if they wished—was originally blocked by Icann, the group that administrates millions of internet addresses, in 2007.

That decision came after long deliberations and threats from the US government, which opposed the creation of .xxx on moral grounds and said it would override Icann if it had to. But that interference led the panel to suggest that the plans should be revisited.

Stuart Lawley, the chairperson of ICM Registry, which had put forward the proposals, called the decision “a victory”.

“We believe that Icann’s new leadership has the vision to embrace the decision as an opportunity to strengthen the Icann model and comply with the rule of law,” he said. “We are eager to execute a registry agreement, complete the build-out of our business and implement the vision that started all of this over six years ago.”

In particular, the 79-page assessment focused on how Icann was unduly influenced by the Bush administration and other groups lobbying against the idea.

While the panel—which consisted of retired judges—said there were no sinister motives behind Icann’s decision, they did say that such pressure unfairly biased the vote against ICM.

“The majority of the board appears to have believed that [it] was acting appropriately in reconsidering the question of sponsorship,” they wrote.

“The board was pressed to do so by the government of the United States and by quite a number of other influential governments, and Icann was bound to ‘duly take into account’ the views of those governments. It is not at fault because it did so.”

New space on the web
The proposals to create a new pornography domain stretch back as far as 2003, when Icann announced its decision to open up the number of major domain names. The idea—to expand the existing options beyond addresses such as .com and .net—was seized upon by many groups who saw a chance to create lucrative new internet space for specific purposes.

While other groups have submitted plans over the years for new domains such as .music and .berlin, ICM put forward its scheme to create the .xxx domain in 2004.

If the decision does get revisited, it may face an easier ride. Since the original ruling, Icann has installed a new chairman and chief executive—and last year the US government made the decision to relinquish its control over the group.

The concept may, however, face renewed opposition. During the original deliberations, the question of whether .xxx should exist caused controversy on all sides.

Not only did it outrage anti-pornography campaigners, who argued that it legitimised the sex industry, but also drew criticism from some parts of the adult entertainment business, who felt that forcing sex sites into a specific corner of the internet would inevitably increase censorship.

“.xxx is an inherently dangerous idea with no real purpose,” said Larry Flynt, the founder and publisher of Hustler magazine, at the time. “Only if it becomes a tool of censorship will it achieve its goal of preventing access to adult content by minors”.

Lawley said he hoped that the process could move more swiftly second time around. “Too much time has been lost and resources wasted—from both sides—already,” he said. - guardian.co.uk

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