Code-Abiding Porn to Get .xxx Domain

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By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 3, 2005

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.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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