The nonprofit organization that oversees Internet addresses has
approved a new online neighborhood specifically for pornographic Web
sites: the .xxx domain.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers said on
Wednesday that it had approved a new "top-level domain" specifically for
adult-oriented Web sites that voluntarily agree to adhere to a set of
"industry best practices." Sites with addresses ending in .xxx, for
example, will agree not to carry material that exploits minors. Other
conditions for the new Internet address are still in the works, according
to a statement from ICANN.
The decision by ICANN to sponsor an adult-content domain is a
reversal of the group's previous stance; the organization turned down a
proposal to create a .xxx domain in 2000.
Bob Corn-Revere, an attorney working on behalf of ICM Registry, the
company that would administer the addresses when they start to go online
later this year, said adult-content sites might have many reasons for
wanting to change their addresses to a .xxx suffix.
Under the Protect Act passed by Congress in 2003, for example,
adult-content Web sites with misleading addresses could be held liable if
it is found that they are exposing children to adult content. "This would
certainly prevent any problems with that," he said.
Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety.org, an Internet
group that works to protect consumers and children online, called the new
Web domain "an important step in protecting children," partly because it
will encourage pornographers to stick to one type of Internet address that
can easily be filtered out by software that tries to protect Web-surfing
children from seeing adult content.
But some worry that having a Web domain reserved for adult content
goes against the open spirit of the Internet and could lead to censorship.
"The bottom line in this is, this is about a lot more than
pornography," said Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People for Internet
Responsibility, a grass-roots group dedicated to analysis and education
technical issues. "It's voluntary until it's not voluntary."
Corn-Revere disputed Weinstein's objection to the .xxx domain. "It
is not designed to be and could not be sustained as a mandatory addressing
system," he said.