- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — The federal government, acknowledging “unprecedented” opposition, has asked the Internet’s key oversight agency to delay approval of a new “.xxx” domain name designed as a virtual red-light district.

Michael D. Gallagher, assistant secretary for communications and information at the Commerce Department, stopped short of urging rejection of the domain name, but he called on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to “ensure the best interests of the Internet community as a whole are fully considered.”

The department received nearly 6,000 letters and e-mail messages expressing concern about the impact of pornography on families and children and objecting to setting aside a domain suffix for it, he said.

“The volume of correspondence opposed to creation of a .xxx is unprecedented,” Mr. Gallagher wrote to Vinton Cerf, ICANN’s chairman.

Mr. Gallagher said ICANN should take more time to evaluate those concerns.

Approval of the domain name had been expected as early as yesterday, five years after it was first proposed and two months after ICANN gave it tentative approval. Mr. Gallagher’s letter was sent last week and made public Monday.

The chairman of ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee, Mohd Sharil Tarmizi, also wrote ICANN officials last week urging delay and expressing “a strong sense of discomfort” among many countries, which he did not name.

Mr. Gallagher’s comments, however, carry greater weight because his agency has veto power over ICANN decisions.

The U.S. government played a role in funding early development of the Internet and selected ICANN in 1998 to oversee domain name administration.

ICANN officials had no comment.

The matter remained on the published agenda for a private conference call among board members yesterday, although a delay in final approval was likely.

ICANN typically does not disclose the outcome of such meetings for up to a week.

A Florida company, ICM Registry Inc., proposed “.xxx” as a mechanism for the $12 billion online porn industry to clean up its act.

All sites using “.xxx” would be required to follow guidelines, such as prohibitions against trickery through spamming and malicious scripts.

Use of “.xxx” would be voluntary, however.

Skeptics note that porn sites are likely to keep their existing “.com” storefronts, even as they set up shop in the new “.xxx” domain name, reducing the effectiveness of any software filters set up to simply block all “.xxx” names.

Conservative groups such as the Family Research Council also expressed worries that creating a “.xxx” suffix would legitimize pornographers.

But ICM Chairman Stuart Lawley, in a response to ICANN, pointed out that the agency offered ample opportunity to raise objections.

“This matter has been before ICANN for five years, and very actively and publicly debated for the past 18 months,” he said. “We are, to say the very least, disappointed that concerns that should have been raised and addressed weeks and months ago are being raised in the final days.”

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