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ICANN douses .xxx domain

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Friday May 12, 2006 )

ICANN’s Board of Directors voted 9 to 5 against the implementation of a .XXX. Top Level Domain (TLD) a couple of days ago. I’m really scratching my head over this one.

The .xxx extension was to be a self-regulated part of cyberspace dedicated to adult content.

Sure, the application created the most controversy of all proposed TLDs – supposedly around 200,000 communications. Sure, US family and religious groups were pretty much overall opposed to it. Sure, the US government leant on ICANN about it – it’s my understanding that they were also against it. Even the majority of the adult industry were opposed.

Personally, I thought it was a great idea. A form of censorship? Perhaps, but many parents have demonstrated their total inability and/or laziness in regards to keeping an eye on their kid’s online forays. These parents are usually the first ones to scream when little Johnny discovers all about the birds and the bees courtesy of the friendly neighborhood adult site.

As a community, we do unfortunately have a responsibility to these parents. More importantly, we all have a responsibility to all the children of the world. There’s an African saying that goes something like: “it takes a whole tribe to raise a single child”.

I’m all for freedom of choice, but it seems that (collectively speaking), we actually want freedom *from* choice. We expect government to keep bad things away from us, but when they do, regardless of their motivation, we scream about our civil liberties being taken away.

In this case, the US government took quite the opposite stance I would have expected them to. Being the self appointed guardians of what is right and good for us all, I’m very curious as to why. Did they see this as giving adult content legitimacy or as a show of support for the adult industry? Were they scared of another body that’s (supposedly) not under their control overseeing the TLD? Do they have other more draconian plans to regulate adult content?

I am not opposed to adult content being on the web whatsoever, but a .xxx domain space, and properly enforced, would have made it somewhat of a no-brainer for people to filter out these sites. No doubt that the many browser makers would have developed a plug-in quick smart to help concerned parents out.

I would have taken the .xxx application a step further and actually set the wheels in motion so that over a period of time it would have been compulsory for all adult sites to use the .xxx extension.

I’m not so niave to think that the .xxx extension in any form would have solved *all* the problems of adult content being accessible to minors (or in the workplace), but I’m certain it was a step in the right direction.

I really can’t see how, properly enforced, there would have been any losers in a compulsory .xxx strategy in the long term:

– parents would have less to worry about knowing that anything from .xxx domains could be easily blocked

– system administrators would have had an easier job in filtering

– the adult industry would have their own playpen

– those wanting to access adult content would know where to find it

– those operating outside the guidelines would be constantly playing a “dodge the cops” game.

The only possible problem I could envision is determining what constitutes ‘adult content’ – that could be a particularly contentious issue.

Ah well, I guess parents will just continue to be oblivious to what their kids are doing on the web, screaming about how dark and dirty it’s all become and yet still expect to be treated seriously in their complaints. This was a great opportunity to getting on the path to set some good rules in place that would have respected everyone affected.

What are your thoughts?


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