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Looking Back at the XXX Domain Controversy

Posted by Geraldine Hunt on Wed, Aug 26th, 2015

When ICANN first started handing out IP addresses and domain names in 1998, there were basically just a few: .com, .edu, .mil, .org, .net, and the top level domains (TLDs) for different countries..xxx domains. As the internet grew in popularity, companies clamoured for new domain suffixes, so .tv, .mobi, .biz, .info and other names TLDs were added.  Some porn sites wanted the .xxx domain.  Some porn sites did not.  Some people who wanted to block porn thought that moving porn to .xxx would create the equivalent of an internet red light district, meaning porn sites would be contained to one area.

The .xxx TLD went live in December 2011.  Assigning domain names was assigned to the registrar ICM Registry a for-profit business in Fort Lauderdale whose owner said he expected to make $200 million per year. But new ideas generate new controversies.  Those who paid for or spent years building their brand did not want to see someone else get a free ride by replacing .com with .xxx, which the rule would not have allowed.  Others objected on moral grounds.

Controversy

The Bush Administration objected to the .xxx domain and asked ICANN to block the proposal.  At that time the American Department of Commerce had jurisdiction over ICANN, so the White House objection carried weight.  The USA still is the guiding force behind ICANN, but has handed over more responsibility to other governments.

Cnet explains that the ICANN was supposed to represent the interests of the planet, so they did not want to lose credibility by giving into political pressure coming from the USA.  The Department of Commerce received more than 6,000 emails opposing the new domain.  Conservative political groups applied pressure. So did politicians who way back in the year 2000 proposed the idea as a way to contain porn in one place.

ICANN ended up delaying the award of the contract to the new domain administrator for one month.

Lawsuits

Some porn site owners sued ICANN claiming “…that the new .xxx domain is a monopoly and an unnecessary expense for business operations.”  The company was complaining about the cost of “defence registration” meaning registering names just so others would not take those and damage their brand.

The company dropped its claim after 2 years of litigation. 

Trademark Issues

Inventa is an organization dedicated to trademarks and patents.   Inventa said that the ICM regulators created the .xxx domain because:

The new namespace has been created to promote a responsible approach to adult content on the Internet and offer clear signposts to its location online.

In a comment, Inventa wrote; There have been objections from civil rights groups, global brands, the adult entertainment industry and even parent groups. It seems no one liked the idea besides ICM itself.

Inventa explained that there were two types of organizations eligible for the new .xxx suffix: (1) those who already owned the corresponding .com or other domain and already had a registered trademark (2) companies who had a registered trademark who wanted to register that name to prevent others from doing so. For example, coke.xxx is registered by ICM Registry Reserved. 

Looking Back was it a waste of time?

In hindsight, you could probably conclude that the whole effort was a waste of time.  The highest traffic porn websites don’t even use .xxx.  Content filtering is commonly used by organizations to prevent computer users from accessing inappropriate web sites or content, or as a pre-emptive security measure to prevent access to known malware hosts. URL filtering, real-time classification, blacklists and keyword filters are some of the tools used by content filtering products like WebTitan to effectively block porn in the workplace or, the school or university.

 And if you thought accessing porn in the workplace wasn’t a big problem, you’d be mistaken:

  • 70% of all online porn access occurs during the 9 am – 5 pm workday
  • 20% of men and 13% of women admit they download porn at work
  • Of 500 HR Professionals polled 2/3 said they had found pornography on their employees computers.

You can read the initial blog post on the introduction of the xxx domain here.

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