Construction on Online Back Alley Halted

The Associated Press
Friday, March 30, 2007; 7:45 PM

LISBON, Portugal -- A key Internet oversight agency put the brakes on plans to construct an online red-light district, rejecting for a third time a proposal to create a voluntary ".xxx" address for pornographic Web sites.

The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers on Friday cited fears that it would find itself having to regulate content and concerns that such a domain name did not have the support of the adult-entertainment industry.

"So the proposal is effectively rejected, and it is my understanding that as a consequence of this vote, we will not accept any further proposals" on the domain name in the current round of applications, ICANN Chairman Vinton Cerf said after the 9-5 vote. One member, ICANN Chief Executive Paul Twomey, abstained.

The company seeking the domain name, ICM Registry LLC, had been allowed to revise a previously rejected proposal. Although ICANN wants to close the current round, which began in 2004, a new proposal could be offered in the next round of applications.

And ICM's president and chief executive, Stuart Lawley, said a lawsuit against ICANN was likely over the rejected bid.

A few ICANN board members criticized their own agency as being too timid to tread toward controversial ideas.

Susan Crawford, a board member who backed the ".xxx" domain name, said the Internet's success grew out of a principle that the network should be open to anyone or anything as long as it isn't illegal or harmful.

"In a nutshell, everything not prohibited is permitted," Crawford said.

Crawford, a professor at Yeshiva University's Cardozo Law School in New York, said no applicant "could ever demonstrate unanimous, cheering approval for its application."

Other board members, however, said the level of support for ICM's proposal was a factor, along with concern that ICANN could find itself in the tricky role of deciding or managing what content would have been appropriate for the new Internet address.

"This application doesn't meet the request for proposals mainly on the supporting community," said board member Raimundo Beca of Chile, who voted against the domain. The adult industry, he added, "has been from the very beginning so split about this."

Porn sites opposed to ".xxx" were largely concerned that the domain name, while billed as voluntary, would make it easier for governments to later mandate its use and push sexual content into what the adult-entertainment industry terms an online ghetto.

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