ICANN approves .XXX red-light district for the Internet

ICANN approves .XXX red-light district for the InternetThe Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has given the .XXX top-level domain (TLD) its final seal of approval. The TLD is meant to give pornographic websites a clearly marked home on the Internet, but it has gone through so many ups and downs over the last 11 years that it's almost a shock that it has finally gone through. Still, the measure didn't pass without opposition—nine ICANN board members voted in favor of .XXX, while three opposed and four abstained—and the vote went against the recommendation of ICANN's Government Advisory Committee.

The .XXX TLD was initially proposed by ICM Registry in 2000 and resubmitted in 2004, but it faced strong opposition from politicians and conservative groups. After the second .XXX proposal was approved in 2005, the Family Research Council (FRC) launched a campaign arguing that the TLD would allow pornographers to "expand their evil empires on the Internet." The porn industry opposed the TLD as well, arguing that it would lead to censorship and promote legislation harmful to the industry.

ICANN's board of directors ultimately rejected .XXX in 2006, concerned that the TLD might make ICANN responsible for enforcing laws and regulations over Internet porn. However, supporters of the domain brought it back for consideration in 2007 and again in 2010. The TLD got preliminary approval in June of 2010 with the final vote today.

The proposal is the same as the one outlined in late 2010. ICM Registry will manage the .XXX suffix, and those looking to register an .XXX domain must first complete an application process that will be overseen by the International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR). The domains will be limited to the adult industry, and ICM says adult sites that already own .com TLDs will be able to reserve their .XXX domains early so that they can "protect their brand names and intellectual property rights within .XXX."

Neither the adult industry nor free speech advocates are pleased with the decision. "Of course we are disappointed but we are not surprised by the ICANN Board’s decision. As voiced in concerns by speakers at this very conference, the ICANN Board has dangerously undervalued the input from governments worldwide," Free Speech Coalition (FSC) Executive Director Diane Duke said in a statement. "Worse, they have disregarded overwhelming outpouring of opposition from the adult entertainment industry—the supposed sponsorship community—dismissing the interests of free speech on the Internet."

The FSC emphasized that the fight isn't over yet, though—the organization plans to make use of ICANN's review procedures in order to "help the industry fully understand the risks and ramifications of participating in .XXX."

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