Home / Blogs

XXX Comes to a Head

Milton Mueller

Just when you thought the .xxx affair couldn't get any worse, it does. I'm beginning to think that ICANN's approach to TLD approval was cooked up by a demented sergeant from Abu Ghraib.

On March 13, the ICANN board is set to vote - again - on whether they can approve ICM's Registry's application to operate a domain reserved for adult online content: .xxx. This will be the third or fourth time this has happened. I have lost count. The same thing keeps happening again and again. ICANN tells ICM registry, the company applying for the domain, something is wrong with its application and something more needs to be done to get approval. ICM registry dutifully goes off and does what was asked. And then ICANN thinks of something else that is wrong, something else it has to do. It's Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football, on a global scale and costing millions of dollars in money and time.

Now, after the triple x people negotiated with ICANN's staff a contract that met all prior objections, and heads into what should be its final approval, word is that a few ICANN Board members are leaning in a negative direction. What is the reason? A group of pornographers has organized a campaign against .xxx, flooding ICANN's comment box with overwhelmingly negative remarks. Since .xxx is supposed to be a "sponsored" domain and sponsored domains are supposed to have support from a "community," some Board members are questioning whether ICM Registry has sufficient community support to be classified as a sponsored domain.

But wait. ICANN already decided, more than a year ago, that ICM Registry had sufficient support from the relevant "community" to be classified as a sponsored domain. The test for sponsorship was part of the original process. So that issue is over. Or should be.

What kind of a resource allocation organization can just say, "oh never mind, yesterday you met the criteria, today you don't."

And what is with this public comment business? Where is the policy value in this modern version of the public stoning? If you held a public comment on whether Milton Mueller should be allowed to write another book the verdict might be negative if my enemies caught wind of it. Anything having to do with pornography is bound to be controversial. Negotiating an agreement and then blithely asking for public comment about it simply gives the proposal's enemies time to organize lots of negative comments.

Of course .xxx isn't supported by everyone. Anyone who expects all pornographers to rally around a proposal that would put their content into a clearly demarcated category is either seriously disconnected from reality or disingenuous. By clearly identifying porn, the domain will both make it easier to find and easier to block. That works against the interests of many incumbent online adult sites.

So why is this happening? The answers are scary.

The answer is that ICANN's processes are so arbitrary and political that any issue can be opened and reopened at any time, for any reason - regardless of the defined process. The answer is that ICANN's completely discretionary, beauty contest approach to TLD selection casts it adrift on a sea of politics, so that the slightest shift in the winds causes it to change direction. The answer is that ICANN will do anything to avoid making a controversial decision.

It is tempting to accuse specific individuals in this process for being malevolent and duplicitous. But the truth is actually worse than that. One credits malevolent people with a purpose, an objective. In this case, the Board members and CEO seem truly directionless, a couple of flotsam and jetsam bobbing about in a political sea. They simply do not understand how deeply they are sapping ICANN's credibility and stature in the world by making (non)decisions in this way. To live up to its role as a global governance institution, ICANN needs to have clear, objective decision making criteria and to stand up for principles. The path of arbitrariness ICANN is on leads to only one end result: litigation.

The issue here is very simple. ICM Registry met all the criteria ICANN set out in its request for applications back in 2003. It passed all the tests ICANN said in advance it was going to require applicants to meet. It even passed all the tests the US government and the GAC imposed after the process was supposed to be over. That should be the end of the story.

By Milton Mueller, Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology School of Public Policy
Follow CircleID on
Related topics: DNS, ICANN, Internet Governance, New TLDs
SHARE THIS POST

If you are pressed for time ...

... this is for you. More and more professionals are choosing to publish critical posts on CircleID from all corners of the Internet industry. If you find it hard to keep up daily, consider subscribing to our weekly digest. We will provide you a convenient summary report once a week sent directly to your inbox. It's a quick and easy read.

I make a point of reading CircleID. There is no getting around the utility of knowing what thoughtful people are thinking and saying about our industry.

Vinton Cerf, Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet

Share your comments

Re: XXX Comes to a Head George Kirikos  –  Mar 09, 2007 1:49 PM PDT

You wrote that "Of course .xxx isn’t supported by everyone. One of the major problem with .xxx is that the so-called "24 major adult companies" supporting the application have been kept secret. This goes against the very nature of transparency. By contrast, there are many hundreds, if not thousands of adult webmasters and companies who've posted detailed opposition against the proposal publicly. One can read the public comments and see for oneself (there are many other reasons to be against .xxx, as enumerated in the comments archive and in past discussions on this topic). Fight the Dot XXX lists some of the companies against the proposal.

There are some folks out there who are for thousands of new TLDs — they've never seen a new TLD application that they don't like. They're willing to close their eyes to deficiencies and process, to get more new TLDs, even though the cost of externalities imposed upon others greatly exceeds any possible benefits. For those who seek a balanced approach to TLD expansion, the voice of those directly affected (existing adult domain registrants), as well as broader interests (the general public, TM holders, etc.) should also be heard, not just those looking to operate a for-profit registry or their registrar partners.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head Brandon Shalton  –  Mar 09, 2007 2:22 PM PDT

The .XXX sTLD is the first content-based domain extension that ICANN has entertained that has such levels of oversight and compliance and bloat that is just wrong on so many levels.

.XXX has been herald by ICM Registry as a mechanism to protect children, but the irony is that .XXX will make it easier for children to find adult entertainment material.

ICM Registry (the sponsor of the .XXX sTLD) has said that .XXX will help to open the namespace.

It certainly will. Now there will sites like yellow.xxx that might be urine fetish site. Any child could easily put in a keyword and add .XXX to see what pops up.

It's like the joke about reading your fortune cookie and adding "in bed" to the end. How easy would it be for a child to type in any kind of simple keyword of phrase and add on ".xxx" and find porn.

There is no .XXX blocking mechanism in place.

Software and ISP filtering could be introduced, If .XXX is approved, but what would it block, a few number of .XXX domains. .XXX is voluntary, and those that have invested in their .COMS won't be giving them up.

.XXX is not about protecting children, it is about greed.

The .XXX TLD was perceived to be one that represents the adult industry for their interest for their own namespace. The .XXX proposal has the sponsored TLD more broadly defined as:

APPENDIX S

PART 3.

DESCRIPTION OF THE STLD COMMUNITY

Subject to Registry Operator’s compliance with this Registry Agreement, including all attachments and appendices thereto (the “Agreement”) and any Temporary Specifications or Policies or Consensus Policy as defined in the Agreement, and provided the scope of the Charter is not exceeded:

The TLD Community will consist of the responsible global online adult-entertainment community (“Community”), generally defined as:

a. Those individuals, businesses, and entities that provide Adult Entertainment intended for consenting adults or for other community members (“Providers”),

b. Organizations that represent Providers (“Representatives”), and

c. Their vendors, service providers, and contractors (“Service Providers”).

The term "Adult-Entertainment" is intended to be understood broadly for a global medium, to include those websites that convey Adult Entertainment, operated by webmasters who have voluntarily determined that a system of self-identification would be beneficial.

Interested stakeholders, including individuals and entities concerned about child safety, free expression, and data privacy (“Other Stakeholders”) are not part of the sponsored community, but will play an important, formal role in the IFFOR policy development process. Registry Operator may modify and/or expand the description of the sTLD Community, consistent with the Agreement, to reflect change and development in the provision of online Adult Entertainment.

This paragraph from ICM's proposal means only those websites that want .XXX are defined as the community.

Given the list of websites listed at http://www.FightTheDotXXX.com and the hundreds more who have posted up on ICANN's public comment board, it is quite clear, that the definition that ICM has proposed to ICANN is a sham of a definition.

If the adult entertainment industry wanted a .XXX TLD, then the individual companies who be flooding the ICANN message board in support of it.

What you see is clearly the opposite.

The Adult Entertainment community would support a .KIDS TLD that would truly be the best way to keep kids from any adult material.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head Milton Mueller  –  Mar 09, 2007 2:29 PM PDT

George,
Your comments are reasonable enough but they reveal a fundamental difference in our assumptions about what kind of a process should govern the addition of new TLDs.

I don't think a "whoever shouts the loudest in a public comment process" should determine that. You apparently do.

The public comments you mention have not raised any new issues or problems associated with the application. They simply express the webmaster's feelings that they wish this domain didn't exist. Hey, there are a lot of competitors to my activities and a lot of things that raise my costs that I don't think should exist. That doesn't mean I have a right to demand that they never be allowed a chance to enter the market. No one has to register within .xxx.

You also ignore one of my main points. Regardless of the true level of opposition among the adult online industry, ICANN set the criteria for what was considered an acceptable sponsored application long ago, in 2003. Did ICM meet those criteria or not? ICANN keeps moving the goal posts. It tells ICM it must do X to get approval, and when it does X, it raises some other problem. Do you think this is fair? Is this the way you want global resource allocation decisions made? Try to look beyond your opposition to this particular domain and think about the longer range consequences. It is obvious to me that ICANN is using the opposition of the porn sites to avoid making the decision that its own processes clearly dictates that it should make.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head Brandon Shalton  –  Mar 09, 2007 2:43 PM PDT

Milton wrote:

The public comments you mention have not raised any new issues or problems associated with the application. They simply express the webmaster’s feelings that they wish this domain didn’t exist.

Please see my ICANN post that addresses specific issues within Appendix S and the XXX TLD agreement:
http://forum.icann.org/lists/xxx-icm-agreement/msg01562.html

Milton wrote:
Hey, there are a lot of competitors to my activities and a lot of things that raise my costs that I don’t think should exist. That doesn’t mean I have a right to demand that they never be allowed a chance to enter the market. No one has to register within .xxx.

True, then why is this an sTLD that has alot more oversight and compliance requirements for the .XXX owner than any other sTLD or TLD?

An example:

1) all .XXX domains must have ICRA labeling.
2) all .XXX domains that auto-redirect to a .COM, the .COM must have ICRA labeling.

Have you heard any domain extension have this level of control?

Milton wrote:

You also ignore one of my main points. Regardless of the true level of opposition among the adult online industry, ICANN set the criteria for what was considered an acceptable sponsored application long ago, in 2003. Did ICM meet those criteria or not?

ICM met its own self-definition of sponsored community by saying anyone who wants .XXX is in the community. This is not a good definition. 

Milton wrote:
Is this the way you want global resource allocation decisions made? Try to look beyond your opposition to this particular domain and think about the longer range consequences. It is obvious to me that ICANN is using the opposition of the porn sites to avoid making the decision that its own processes clearly dictates that it should make.

I think the TLD world will sleep at night if .XXX got buried and forgotten.

.XXX is supposed to be covering online adult entertainment websites.  If large companies like Hustler, AVN, Xbiz, Free Speech Coalition (the trade association for adult), Wicked Pictures, etc, etc, etc have expressed public opposition, then clearly there is something else going on here… like why aren't the 24 supposed supporters who gave their support 3-4 years ago, are not revealed?  Have they been followed up to verify that they are still in agreement?

If you believe that ICM has demonstrated that the definition of community has been established, then name 1 company that supports .XXX besides ICM.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head George Kirikos  –  Mar 09, 2007 2:49 PM PDT

Milton: I agree with you that ICANN dropped the ball on this one, as usual. This doesn't mean that ICM should get .xxx out of "pity", for having "endured so much." Endurance alone doesn't justify getting a TLD (Christopher Ambler of .web can tell you that). One has to judge it on the merits. TLDs are a sacred public trust, and shouldn't be added to the root on an ad-hoc or willy-nilly basis, due to political posturing or threats of lawsuits, or other gamesmanship.

The way you've argued things, that we should not listen to affected parties (you call them "their competitors" or "those shouting the loudest", but it's certainly more than that), it would justify ANYONE putting forth an application over the howls of nearly everyone else.

As I've posted before in other venues, if ICANN wants to grant me .bank (or another TLD of my choosing), so that I own it forever and use it how I please, and reserve all the best "premium" names for myself, with only the support of the sock-puppets in my bedroom and my "secret" sponsors, and over the howls of protest coming from every other financial institution in the world, sure, I'd be happy to remove all my objections to the .xxx application [I won't hold my breath, and am not going to be a sell-out like some others, but hopefully when you see my hypothetical proposal, it might illuminate why so many people have been disgusted with ICANN and their dangling the promise of new TLDs before investors, in exchange for caviar and filet mignon banquets]. I empathize with ICM for being strung along so long — but they should have known better. They obviously had and still have the best expert advisers, and had to know that they weren't going to be guaranteed a windfall — there was always going to be a chance to fail. That's business, and one has to take one's lumps sometimes.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head Milton Mueller  –  Mar 09, 2007 2:57 PM PDT

George, You write:

"1) all .XXX domains must have ICRA labeling.
2) all .XXX domains that auto-redirect to a .COM, the .COM must have ICRA labeling.

Have you heard any domain extension have this level of control?"

No, George I haven't. But you seem to be missing the point. Those levels of control were imposed on ICM during the last round of objections. So the implication back then was, impose these controls and you will get approved. So ICM promised to do that.

Now you are saying that you and others who don't like the controls can yell and scream about them in public comment period and use them as an excuse to kill the application.

So they are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Do you REALLY think that is a fair way to operate a TLD approval process?

The simple point is that porn is controversial, and if your decision about whether to approve a porn domain is based on the volume of shouting it generates, then no porn domain will ever be approved.

And that's really bad, because by extension it means that NO CONTROVERSIAL top level DOMAIN OF ANY KIND WILL EVER BE APPROVED BY ICANN. That would be a long-term inhibition on internet freedom of expression. That is what this controversy is really about. The consequences are a lot bigger than a bunch of small-scale porn webmasters having to register an extra name.

Killing .xxx because it's controversial can be and most certainly will be used as a precedent going forward. Think about it.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head George Kirikos  –  Mar 09, 2007 3:08 PM PDT

Milton: I think you quoted Brandon there, not me. I didn't type that.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head Brandon Shalton  –  Mar 09, 2007 3:17 PM PDT

Milton wrote:
"Killing .xxx because it’s controversial can be and most certainly will be used as a precedent going forward. Think about it."

.XXX will not be killed because it is controversial, it will be killed because it has been clearly demonstrated that the self-defining "sponsored community" definition by ICM is a sham of a definition, and that the adult entertainment industry does not want it.

When you have the trade association for adult, Free Speech Coalition, and two of the major industry magazines, AVN and Xbiz, take a stand against it, shouldn't it be clear that this TLD Application is flawed?

Your premise of a "slippery slope" if .XXX gets buried is on its own downward glide.

TLD applications should stand on their merits.  The TLD application should have been dead last year, but ICM managed to do even more concessions.. is this how a TLD process is supposed to work?  To keep compromising just to get the application approved?

Just because ICM has spent years and reported million+ dollars in the effort, also doesn't mean that .XXX should get approved.

The credibility of ICANN is at stake.  The .XXX TLD Application is flawed on its foundations.  The technical issues i feel ICM has done a great job in addressing.  It is those technical merits that i believe you feel is why it should be approved, but the foundation and premise of the application is wrong, and therefore no amount of proper documentation and policy definitions can put enough coats of paint to cover the graffiti underneath.

.KIDS is the right solution to protect children from the internet, in using white-listing approach.

The consistant retort to .KIDS by ICM is that there is already .kids.us and few have used it.

I believe if a company like Network Solutions who already has the root servers in place and the infrastucture in place, could be in a good position to run .KIDS

They could even charge like $120/yr because there would be the need to validate and monitor applicant domains to ensure they were kid friendly.

The marketplace that wants to provide child-safe and child-friendly online environments would seek to have a .KIDS domain.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Mar 09, 2007 10:47 PM PDT

The way you’ve argued things, that we should not listen to affected parties (you call them “their competitors” or “those shouting the loudest”, but it’s certainly more than that), it would justify ANYONE putting forth an application over the howls of nearly everyone else.

For milton, "shouts the loudest" is anyone who gets in an opinion contrary to his.  Someone seems to have shouted louder than he did, which does take some effort.

"Demented sergeant from Abu Ghraib"?  Does icann torture people into a ccTLD process?  Pull their fingernails off with pliers or put them on a wet mattress and wire it up to the electricity supply?  Or something?

Yes there's bureaucracy.  Yes there's political meddling in the process.  But that doesn't hide a whole lot of significant issues with XXX - valid opposition to it from people in the porn industry, rather than from laboriously sarcastic professors with an ax to grind against icann, this strange secrecy on just who the principal industry supporters of .XXX are ...

Levine's post saying "court of the sun king" was rather more apt than yours. 

And your post is just about as funny, and half baked, as your "panel" at the IGF.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head Brandon Shalton  –  Mar 10, 2007 7:55 AM PDT

The following was copied from the ICANN board, posted by Reed Lee of Free Speech Coalition:

I note that this comment, and the comments preceding this one, including my earlier comment are submitted on March 9, 2007, despite the contrary indication on this page.

Earlier today, Professor Mueller posted a comment to the effect that ICM's .xxx sTLD proposal should be approved because ICM has spent a good deal of money and has done what's been asked of it.

It is news to me that spending money and jumping through hoops should be enough to push a bad idea through.

But what is most troubling about Prof. Mueller's argument (and I have watched him with a good deal of admiration in the past as he has articulated his governance concerns) is his suggestion that ICM has _already_satisfied_ the concerns surrounding the sponsoring community — its definition and its support. In his blog, Prof. Mueller links his state- ment of this proposition to the _questions_asked_ by the independent evaluators, not to the answers given. The independent evaluators lengthy report is here:

http://www.icann.org/tlds...

A reading of the relevant portions of the report — or even a cursory review of pages 110 and 114 — clearly shows that ICM _failed_ independent evaluation on these very points. As I said in my earlier comment, this remains a concern to us at the Free Speech Coalition and, as I noted, to the GAC as well.

What happened after the independent evaluation report was filed is that the ICANN Board decided to authorize negotiation of a proposed registry agreement to see whether the independent evaluators' concerns could be addressed. ICANN's procedures (about which Prof. Mueller is right to be concerned) always provided for a comment period and then an independent Board evaluation and vote on any resulting proposed agree- ment. When the Board voted last May, it rejected the agreement as it then stood.

That rejection was in large part because the contract negotiations show just what a problem the ICM proposal is. There is no guarantee, and never was any, of course, that the relevant problem can, in fact, be solved in any contract; and it has indeed become abundantly clear that it cannot.

Here's why. As Prof. Mueller recognizes, .xxx is controversial. It is controversial precisely because the expression to which it is tied is controversial. Quite apart from legitimate questions and aspirations for the domain name space, there are forces in this world that want to limit or eliminate the sort of speech in question. And there are forces — which I happily represent — who think that consenting adults should be able to say pretty much whatever they want to one another, over the Internet and otherwise.

ICM's proposal tosses ICANN between these forces. Last Spring saw objections from the GAC and else- where that the proposal was too vague concerning its promises of _regulation_ of the speech at issue. Contract and related provisions were renegotiated in order to put some teeth in those promises. But that aroused the concern of those, such as the Government of Canada, that ICANN would be straying from its technical mandate into content regulation. That's the unavoidable squeeze.

Unavoidable, that is, so long as ICANN approves .xxx. The problem, though, lies not in ICANN's procedures or in the procedural history of this application. It lies in the .xxx proposal itself. At bottom, it just doesn't make any sense as a voluntary proposition, and powerful forces stand ready to try to make it mandatory, against the wishes of the supposedly sponsored community and against the interests of free speech on the Internet.

I for one won't fault ICANN if — at the end of this long and indeed somewhat winding road — ICANN says "no" to the possibility of a mandatory .xxx. I won't even fault ICANN if it respectfully declines to get involved in the worldwide pornography debate. That's just not ICANN's job.

It really can stay out of that debate by rejecting .xxx. No one involved with sexual expression or freedom of speech is asking for .xxx. Only ICM — which has never seen a free speech fight in its life — is asking for .xxx, and that only to make some money.

To Prof. Mueller, ICANN, and all of the Internet community, I humbly say: I really do have great respect for efforts to expand the domain name space. But there are surely some domain names which will _not_ promote that sound expansion. I ask only that all of you technical folks at least listen to the concerns raised by us free speech folks. Please, don't let your legitimate enthusiasm for your technical positions blind you to the very real and very harsh political and legal realities of this world.

The .xxx TLD should be rejected because it's a bad idea for free speech. And I trust that — despite his frustration with comment periods — even Proof. Mueller still thinks free speech is a good thing.

Reed Lee. 

Re: XXX Comes to a Head Milton Mueller  –  Mar 10, 2007 9:48 AM PDT

Hmm. First I confused George with Brandon (apologies) and now I have a very intelligent re-post from Brandon written by Reed Lee.

Whatever. Let me respond to Reed, who actually makes decent arguments.

Here's where we agree:

"Quite apart from legitimate questions and aspirations for the domain name space, there are forces in this world that want to limit or eliminate the sort of speech in question.  And there are forces—which I happily represent—who think that consenting adults should be able to say pretty much whatever they want to one another, over the Internet and otherwise."

Yes. and since August 2005, when the U.S. government intervened and other governments piled on, the fate of .xxx has fundamentally been about whether ICANN can approve a controversial domain, or whether governmental and other kinds of pressures can force ICANN into eliminating .xxx or regulating it to death. The sponsorship issue is secondary, a rather ridiculous fig leaf that is being used to let ICANN's board off the hook.

I agree that we have a lousy choice here. An .xxx that is highly regulated, due to reactionary and governmental pressures, or a complete defeat for .xxx, which means that anyone who attempts to provide any kind of innovative yet controversial service via TLDs may as well not even try in the future.

I think we have to insist that ICANN follow its own stated criteria. If they tell an applicant that they have to do X to get approval, and the applicant does X, they should be approved. ICANN should not be in the position of a Roman emporer making life or death decisions by looking around a raucous coliseum with its thumb in the air and deciding on the basis of the audience's blood lust to turn its thumb up or down. That whole decision model, well, sucks, to put it in precise, social-scientific terms

As the Internet Governance Project argued in its paper on the new xxx contract, the saving grace here is that no one has to use the domain. On net, therefore, it is better for .xxx to be approved than not.

Yes, it's true that the sponsorship panel didn't initially like .xxx. The problem is that they didn't like ANY applications — not .mobi, .asia, etc. By subsequently entering into the contract negotiation phase and insisting on particular provisions, both the GAC and ICANN Board de facto accepted ICM's claims to represent some kind of online adult content community - though clearly not all of it.

I hope you can recognize the free expression implications of allowing a so-called "expert" panel (and how does one acquire expertise in whether a TLD "represents a community," I wonder) decide who speaks for a "community" that they are not part of. I propose free association as the alternative here. ICM's definition of its community is as good as any definition. Communities are always self-defining, and clearly there is a disjunction here between adult services who buy into the "online responsibility" argument and those who don't. It's not ICANN's job to decide who "represents" the ENTIRE online adult content industry. At best, given the absurd nature of the sponsored domain model, it should simply ascertain that a sponsored domain really is restricted to the kind of people the sponsors say it is going to be restricted to.

You say:

"I for one won’t fault ICANN if—at the end of
this long and indeed somewhat winding road —
ICANN says “no” to the possibility of a mandatory .xxx."

.xxx as proposed is not mandatory. That's one of my main points. Will governments make it mandatory? If they try, that's when you pull out the stops.

"I won’t even fault ICANN if it respectfully declines to get involved in the worldwide pornography debate."

Too late. Way too late. It is already involved.
Look, Reed, this is not that complicated, or at least it shouldn't be. When someone tries to register "f**kc*ck.com," VeriSign doesn't hold a public comment period on who should get it and why. Like VeriSign, ICANN can only avoid these kinds of controversies and steer clear of a censors role by impartially and neutrally adopting proposals that come before it according to objective criteria. By mounting this campaign against .xxx, you are pushing ICANN in the wrong direction, I think.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head Joe S Alagna  –  Mar 14, 2007 1:57 PM PDT

I've always thought that .XXX was a bad idea.  Certainly anyone who is honest and who understands DNS and the Internet knows that as proposed, it will do nothing to "Safeguard children" as stated on the ICM web site. That said, I no longer care whether it is approved or not because I think this debate accentuates a more important and conspicuous void in our community…

There is an utter absence of concern for families and children's issues online amongst this DNS digerati.

Here we are, once again debating policy and free speech, and some of us, showing a disdain for those "who shout the loudest".  All the while, we have eight year old children around the world with simple free access to .XXX content of all sorts… and that part is the side show. 

Let me be controversial…

If we sit idly by and do nothing about allowing children to easily access pornography online, we are no better than pedophiles or child pornographers (Isn't that what they do?).

When are we going to put this problem ahead of our policy debates?  I asked this before and I ask it again.  Doesn't it bother anyone here that children have access to any form of adult material imaginable in their own homes with the click of a button?  Doesn't it bother anyone here that parents around the world are confused and struggling, and in need of help to understand and solve this problem?  We and ICANN as a community should be reaching out to, and educating the public more, and putting our minds and resources into helping parents and governments to solve this problem rather than having petty debates about a single tld proposal.

But rather, amongst ourselves, we blame parents and place our energies into arguments about why we can't solve this problem and justify it all because "there are too many varying standards" to come up with solutions, etc. 

To Milton; the ICANN Board took a stand.  They made a controversial decision. It may invite lawsuits, etc.  That's tough.  I commend them for listening to public concerns (the public who shouted and deserves to be heard) and for making tough decisions so far. And I hope that they will continue to take a stand against useless, for profit only, tld proposals that do no good for society as a whole.

Why don't we begin a discussion about true solutions to the problem of children's unfettered access to adult materials online. Stuart Lawley seems like a sincere person to me but if he wants to "safeguard children", then he needs to build a structure for the IFFOR board of directors that has a majority of family advocates on the board and to come up with a proposal that actually stands a chance of safeguarding children rather than just saying it will. Otherwise I'd rather see ICM just take out any reference to safeguarding children at all and discuss the proposal for what it is, a simple business proposition.  The safeguarding children reference only serves to more confuse an already confused press and public.

I'm not optimistic that the approval of a new Tld by itself will do anything to solve this. I think rather, that it will take the cooperation of many minds, business, government, legal, and technical.  But aren't we and the ICANN community in the best position to figure this out?  If we don't who can solve it any better?  Isn't this a project that deserves more attention than the Tld approval process? We have the ability here to come up with great solutions if we put our minds to it collectively.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head John Berryhill  –  Mar 22, 2007 1:58 PM PDT

Joe, I assure you I am honest.

If one reduces .xxx to "safeguarding children", then one is making something of a strawman argument.

There is a public swimming pool near your house.  It has no lifeguards, and parents allow their children to swim unsupervised in it.  That swimming pool is .com.

Someone comes along and proposes building another pool, which will have a lifeguard posted.

Now, do children drown in swimming pools that have lifeguards?  You bet they do.  But that is not an argument against building a pool with a lifeguard when the entire community tolerates the presence of the pool that doesn't have one.

Another thing to ponder is that in general children are not the paying customers that support this type of content.[1] If I give you a choice between spending bandwidth on visitors who do not become paying customers and spending bandwidth on visitors who are more likely to become paying customers, which option will you take?  One of the points made by prospective registrants is that customers are reluctant to provide payment information in that pool without the lifeguard.  The safeguards proposed by ICM are more than just show - they are a selling point for publishers which would rather participate in a space that, by the nature of the restrictions and requirements, provides enhanced confidence to attract paying customers.  That theory may or may not turn out to be proven, but that's an ordinary business risk.

One could just as easily turn the argument around and say, "Anyone who is honest can see that detractors of .xxx simply want to maintain the unregulated status quo of porn in .com".  There are rational arguments either way, and impugning the integrity of those whose opinions may differ is a tired feature of internet forum discussions.  Characterizing the proposal as "for profit only" when you are perfectly aware that ICM will be funding the types of policy organizations doing precisely the type of work which you want to see done, though, is a somewhat less than accurate characterization.  By how much is Verisign proposing to use .com proceeds to fund organizations such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children?  Answer: zero.

++

[1] The "attracting children" aspect of the unregulated .com TLD arises from registration of deceptive domain names which *are* attractive to children for the purpose of generating fraudulent traffic by affiliate advertisers.  Absolutely, those sorts of people are trying to attract children to click on things or to mis-spell things.  And that is precisely the sort of fraudulent practice which legitimate publishers would prefer to be avoided by providing an easier-to-block TLD.  Again, if you are trying to obtain paying customers, then you *don't want children* consuming your bandwidth.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head Joe S Alagna  –  Mar 22, 2007 8:06 PM PDT

Hi John,

I don't think .xxx will help to solve any problems and I don't think pornography deserves a special place on the Internet.  The adult industry has benefited greatly in the online world and has grown by leaps and bounds without a special Tld and the adoption of one as proposed by ICM won't make any difference either way.  That's all.  To me its a waste of resources and doesn't solve any problem as proposed.

Since the inception of the .xxx idea, I have seen (and I'm sure you have too) too many misunderstandings by the mainstream press and by the public.  Parents and the public are confused about exactly what ICM's proposal would do.  I feel that much of the press that would accompany a rollout of .xxx would serve to create a false sense of security in parent's minds and thus could serve more to harm children. 

We can't get all parties on either the right or the left to agree on this thing.  Both sides have strong advocates and both have strong opponents.  It's just too mixed up and rarely characterized correctly.  I'd prefer to see ICM take out any reference to the idea that this proposal can "safeguard children" and stop the confusion about this aspect of it because you know it won't go one iota to safeguarding children as proposed.

That said, I agree on many of your points, but forgive me for failing to communicate to you, the main point of my post. 

The main point of my post John was this…

What are we doing as an industry that involves governments, big businesses, great legal minds, and highly intelligent technologists to keep decadent pornographic materials out of the hands of little children? 

I see great efforts by many parties to build businesses, protect our pocketbooks, and to uphold speech rights; all the while, a new generation of children are easily accessing unmentionable content, some of which can literally make a normal adult puke.  Surely I'm a capitalist. I just think we are allowing great evils in the name of free speech and the almighty dollar (well nowadays euros and pounds) and I wish that the great leaders of our nascent online industry were thinking more about this social issue and working together to develop real workable solutions.  We should stop ignoring it and we shouldn't pretend that it isn't a problem with bad consequences for future generations.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head John Berryhill  –  Mar 22, 2007 11:43 PM PDT

What are we doing as an industry that involves governments, big businesses, great legal minds, and highly intelligent technologists to keep decadent pornographic materials out of the hands of little children?

Oh, I thought I had addressed that question.  What we are doing is opposing a business which intends to fund efforts to do that.

I'm sorry I wasn't clear.

Re: XXX Comes to a Head Joe S Alagna  –  Mar 23, 2007 11:10 AM PDT

John I agree with you on most of the issues you address.  This is just one that we disagree on and I don't think the direction that ICM has set will go far to accomplishing much about the problem.

I could be wrong.

As always I do respect your opinion and I am sure your intentions are good.

I've been busy with my own work so may have missed some of the new developments.  If you know, seriously, where can I see some of the material changes in what they were proposing, I'd love to see them (links or whatever). 

The last I saw (admittedly a long time ago) they had agreed to fund of $250K legal warchest to protect the voluntary nature of the domain. Has that changed? I personally think that the "easy access for kids to porn issue" should trump the "free speech issue".  That's just my view as unpopular as it seems here.  Have they changed their position on that? 

Where can I see how they are funding efforts to keep pornography away from kids besides funding their own flawed (IMHO) Tld business proposal. 

On the make-up of their board, although I'd like to see a stronger representation for child or family advocate members, I'm willing to concede that it may be somewhat fairly constructed.  I've criticized that in the past. Has that changed at all though?

Lastly, I'm not being cheeky here.  I really may have missed something and I wish to better understand some of the newest developments that could change my view. I'd like to understand how their proposal could address a problem that I think we should all care more about.

To post comments, please login or create an account.

Related

Topics

Cybersecurity

Sponsored byVerisign

IP Addressing

Sponsored byAvenue4 LLC

DNS Security

Sponsored byAfilias

Domain Names

Sponsored byVerisign

New TLDs

Sponsored byAfilias

Whois

Sponsored byWhoisXML API

Cybercrime

Sponsored byThreat Intelligence Platform