US: New domain name for pornography sites

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers hopes to encourages more porn sites to register under the domain labeled .xxx

The Times of India
Friday, June 3, 2005

Washington -- Sex sites will soon be able to sign up for Web addresses in the .xxx Internet domain, but a virtual red light district won't guarantee that people can avoid pornography online, Internet experts said on Thursday.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers said late Wednesday it would move ahead with plans to set up a separate .xxx Internet domain for sexually explicit material.

Sex sites won't be required to sign up for .xxx addresses. But the new domain will enable porn sites to label themselves clearly and help filtering software keep underage users away, according to ICM Registry Inc., the company that will oversee the domain.

"This is a voluntary initiative," said Robert Corn-Revere, a Washington lawyer who helped ICM develop its proposal. "We're not trying to put it forward as the ultimate solution for everything."

Child-safety advocate Donna Rice Hughes said .xxx won't help people avoid online porn because sex sites will still be able to hold on to their old .com domain names.

"It's a nice little red-light district for the pornographers, but I don't think it's going to do anything to protect kids," said Hughes, president of the group Enough is Enough. "It's not going to make filters work any better."

A spokeswoman for Playboy Enterprises Inc. said the adult entertainment company had no plans to move any of its Web sites to the new domain.

Pornography accounts for more than 10 percent of online traffic and there are more than 1 million porn Web sites currently online, according to ICM.

Efforts to ban or segregate online pornography have failed for years.

The US Congress in 1996 prohibited the "knowing transmission" of obscene or indecent messages to anyone under 18 years old, but the Supreme Court struck that law down a year later on the grounds that it was too broad. A narrower 1998 attempt has never enforced due to a court challenge.

ICANN, an international nonprofit body, has in the past resisted congressional attempts to set up a domain for sex sites on the grounds that it doesn't want to regulate online content.

That's not an issue with the .xxx domain because it will be run by the private sector, ICANN spokesman Kieran Baker said.

"As a technical coordinator, we don't pass judgment over content on the Internet," Baker said.

ICANN usually takes six to nine months to wrap up the approval process, he said. After that it will be up to ICM to get the domain up and running.

ICANN has approved a number of other new domains to complement stalwarts like .com and .org. In April ICANN approved the .jobs domain for Web sites offering employment information and .travel for the travel industry.

A company called New.net already sells .xxx addresses, but most Web browsers are not configured to view them.