- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 20, 2011

The red-light district got a green light Friday when the international group that oversees Internet names voted to include “.xxx” as a top-level domain.

The decision means that .xxx will soon become as common as .com, .net and .gov.

It also means, on the consumer level, that Internet users can purchase their own .xxx website — such as jim.xxx — for as little as $60, said Stuart Lawley, chief executive of ICM Registry, which sought the new domain.

Friday’s vote by the board of directors for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was not unanimous. Nine members voted for the new domain, three voted against it and four abstained, mainly because of conflicts of interest.

Opposing board member George Sadowsky said he objected to the .xxx application because he didn’t see enough evidence that the world community wanted such a domain, given diverse cultural sensibilities. Moreover, he said, an affirmative vote would “mark the first instance” when ICANN approved a domain that would actively attract blocking and filtering.

Board member Katim Touray, another opponent, said that approving .xxx would disrupt ICANN’s “relationship with governments around the world.”

But board chairman Peter Dencate Thrush said he and other board members thought that the .xxx issue had been considered at length for many years and it was “time to move” on it.

“We listened very carefully to their arguments,” Mr. Thrush said of opponents, including those in the adult entertainment industry.

In the end, though, application requirements were met, public comments were accepted, questions were answered, and there was no procedural reason to say no, said ICANN board members: There are risks with approving .xxx, but “I want to take the risk and face the challenge,” said board member Erika Mann. The .xxx domain is not intended to be insulting to cultures; it “reflects reality,” said her colleague, Bertrand de la Chapelle.

The issue is “a lose-lose for our board,” admitted ICANN board member Rita Rodin Johnston, who voted against .xxx in 2007 but voted for it Friday. With the application processes met, ICANN has to “stumble forward” with .xxx as a top level domain, she said.

Mr. Lawley’s ICM Registry praised the ICANN vote as “a landmark decision” that would open a “progressive new home for adult entertainment online.”

It also would create “a clearly defined Web address for adult entertainment, out of the reach of minors and as free as possible from fraud or malicious computer viruses,” he said.

Mr. Lawley told a recent interview at Domainfest, an Internet industry conference, he expected his company to sell about 500,000 .xxx sites. Every site, he added, will include built-in components to block viruses and allow for child protection — a meta tag on each .xxx site will allow filters to find them with “100 percent efficiency,” he said.

An Associated Press report this year said Mr. Lawley’s company “stands to make millions” if the .xxx was approved.

Anti-pornography groups Friday lamented the decision.

“The establishment of a .xxx domain would increase, not decrease the spread of pornography on the Internet, causing even more harm to children, families and communities, and make ICANN complicit in that harm,” said Patrick Trueman, chief executive of Morality in Media and former chief of the U.S. Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

“There is no evidence that the public wants or needs this domain,” said Mr. Trueman. “In fact, each time this idea has been proposed it has been overwhelmingly opposed by the public and governments throughout the world.”

ICANN has caved to the pornography industry — it will now be able to use both .com and .xxx to lure children, Penny Young Nance, chief executive of Concerned Women for America, said in an opinion piece on Foxnews.com.

An adult industry trade group called Free Speech Coalition (FSC) also opposed the domain-name change.

“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,” said Diane Duke, FSC executive director, who said her group would continue to try to overturn the ICANN decision.

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