ICANN Approves .XXX TLD, Creates Potential Porn Wasteland For You to Muck Through

You may never have heard of ICANN - the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It's a nonprofit organization that works to help organize the Internet and keep things operable as it expands and grows. It doesn't control content.

However for more than a decade ICANN has been at the helm of a debate to create a top-level domain (TLD) that would create a URL suffix especially for adult websites. So your favorite sites will soon have a .XXX on its tail in place of the .com's and .net's you might be used to.

Sounds reasonable, right? Protecting people from accidentally accessing a squirting fetish site while attempting to research plumbing companies. Keeping kids from happening upon any website that could potentially scar their retinas and - GASP! - asking uncomfortable questions later on.

So what's the big deal? Well, there are a few things.

Creating a separate TLD for adult sites will create a sort of wasteland on the Internet, a Red Light District of websites catering to adult needs. But who determines what website content is considered adult, and how?

.XXX domains will be reserved for the adult industry, ICANN says, and anyone looking to enter the .XXX realm will have to undergo an application process overseen by the International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR).

IFFOR says the TLD is for "the adult-entertainment community," which it defines as online businesses, individuals and entities "that provide sexually-oriented information, services, or products intended for consenting adults." (The grammar errors are their own.)

The organization further defines the adult community as "websites that convey sexually-oriented information" and admits a system of self-identification "would be beneficial."

ICANN Approves .XXX TLD, Creates Potential Porn Wasteland For You to Muck Through

This makes things sticky - and not in a good way - when it comes to websites offering information about sex without 30-second gonzo clips and creampie money shots.

It's not yet clear how the organizations (or the websites in question) will handle that part. But regardless, it gives a new level of control over an entity - the World Wide Web - that once was considered impossible to patrol.

And not to mention the fact that the .XXX approval puts IFFOR in charge of essentially categorizing website content, deciding which sites are considered "adult entertainment" and which are OK'd for .com's.

There's a First Amendment issue here that, though IFFOR's website insists it will "promote the principles set forth in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights related to free expression," won't be entirely defined until the categorization process begins.

ICM Registry first proposed .XXX in 2000 but faced opposition from the very entities it needed to keep it alive. A year after submitting it a second time in 2004, the proposal was approved, but conservative groups argued that .XXX would enhance the adult industry's presence online.

ICANN rejected the proposal in 2006 for fear of having the onus of Internet law enforcement being put on its shoulders, but .XXX was brought back again in 2007 and 2010. Following a long haul and a lot of arguing, the TLD managed to make it through.

One adult industry figure eloquently expressed to adult trade rag XBIZ that the reasons for proposing and approving a .XXX domain are compelling, and he doesn't expect people outside of the adult industry to understand the opposition.

Evil Angel Productions general manager and FSC board member, Christian Mann, voiced his disappointment in the decision, saying untold hours of work have been invested into stopping this initiative.

"Given the many compelling reasons presented so well by the .XXX opposition, which included the real stakeholders in the adult content community as well as governments worldwide, including our own GAC (Government Advisory Committee), the decision by ICANN baffles me," Evil Angel Productions general manager and Free Speech Coalition (FSC) board member Christian Mann said. "I'm not surprised as we knew we were facing pressure from forces with resources, money and questionable agendas. I realize that on the surface, the issues are complex which makes it harder to get people outside of the industry to understand the inherent risks."

For one thing, .XXX domain names aren't free. Companies who've been in existence online for more than a decade now have to register for competitive domains, spending gobs of money on registration alone.

Companies such as Kink.com, Hustler and lesser-known adult brands own and operate 10, 30 or even more separate websites, each now having to be re-instated with a .XXX TLD. It's argued that this regulation was made with money-grubbing in mind, rather than the health and safety of the Internet-viewing public.

ICANN's own Government Advisory Committee opposed .XXX, and according to the FSC several government figures urged ICANN to follow suit. But that wasn't the case, and now the First Amendment-fighters are taking advantage of review processes within ICANN's own bylaws to explore possible alternatives.

"Of course we are disappointed but we are not surprised by the ICANN Board's decision. As voiced in concerns by speakers at this very conference, the ICANN Board has dangerously undervalued the input from governments worldwide," said FSC Executive Director Diane Duke. "Worse, they have disregarded overwhelming outpouring of opposition from the adult entertainment industry - the supposed sponsorship community - dismissing the interests of free speech on the Internet."

FSC Board Chair and adult industry attorney Jeffrey Douglas - who also represents the porn industry's STI/AIDS and healthcare facility AIM Healthcare Foundation - said the group now will work to make sure everyone in the industry is aware of what complying with new regulations will mean for business and provide as much information as possible.

"Until now we have been forced to work within the constraints of the ICANN process. FSC is now free to explore all options and we intend to do just that with input from, and in the interest of, our members," Douglas said. "We will help the industry fully understand the risks and ramifications of participating in .XXX."


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >