Unusual Alliance Fights .xxx Creation

New York – Online pornographers and religious groups are in a rare alliance as a key Internet oversight agency nears a decision on creating a virtual red-light district through a “.xxx” Internet address.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — ICANN — which has already rejected similar proposals twice since 2000, planned to vote as early as next week on whether to approve the domain name for voluntary use by porn sites.

The decision ultimately could hinge on whether “.xxx” has the support of the adult-entertainment industry — and many porn sites have been strongly opposed.

“One of the criteria is that it (must) have general support among the industry it’s supposed to serve, and it does not,” said Mark Kernes, a board member with the industry trade group Free Speech Coalition. “I have not met one single webmaster or adult video producer that is in favor of ‘.xxx,’ and I’ve met a lot of them.”

Porn sites are largely concerned that the domain name, while billed as voluntary, would make it easier for governments to later mandate its use and “essentially ghettoize sexual information on the Web,” Kernes said.

ICM Registry Inc., the company behind the proposal, has vowed to fight any government efforts to compel its use and cited preregistrations of some 76,000 names as evidence of support. Kernes said many Web sites reserved names simply to prevent someone else from having it.

The Free Speech Coalition believes a domain name for kids-friendly sites would be more appropriate.

Given its voluntary nature, “.xxx” is unlikely to have much effect on parents’ ability to block porn sites.

And because a domain name serves merely as an easy-to-remember moniker for a site’s actual numeric Internet address, even if a government were to mandate its use, a child could simply punch in the numeric address of any blocked “.xxx” name.

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Religious groups worry that “.xxx” would legitimize and expand the number of adults sites, which more than a third of U.S. Internet users visit each month, according to comScore Media Metrix. The Web site measurement firm said 4 percent of all Web traffic and 2 percent of all time spent Web surfing involved an adult site.”They will keep their ‘.com’ domains, and I have no doubt they will buy their ‘.xxx’ as well,” said Patrick Trueman, special counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian public-interest law firm. “There will be twice as much pornography on the Internet.”

Trueman and other critics say ICM will be the only beneficiaries.

Continue reading the article over at SeattlePI.

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