The Web Doesn't Need .xxx Porn Domain

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The BBC has an interesting story today about stepped-up pressure on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the international agency that oversees the Net's address system, to decide on the proposed .xxx domain for adult content.

The Web Doesn't Need .xxx Porn Domain
ICANN has been mulling the topic for several years now, alternatively approving and rejecting a plan to restrict sexually explicit material to one domain. Proponents say the proposal would help users filter out porn; opponents say the plan would be too difficult to enforce, and that it would raise free-speech concerns.

Personally, I hope ICANN buries the .xxx proposal once and for all. A smut-specific domain might make it easier for schools, libraries, and parents to keep kids from adult material online. Then again, what to stop porn purveyors from using another domain?

And will there be an International Smut Police that surfs the Web for offenders?

Imagine an international standards body wrestling with the same content-approval headaches facing Apple, which has adopted the role of Net nanny for its App Store. I suspect that Steve Jobs' staff has found this a thankless chore, one that pleases no one. Just last week a watchdog group griped that there's still too much smut in the App Store, despite Apple's efforts to purge most sex-related content from its online shop.

ICANN's roll as smut cop would be a disaster. At what point would content become "adult" enough for the .xxx domain? Would the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue quality as porn? Most of us would agree that it doesn't. But many Web users, both domestic and international, would certainly see things differently. Let the Great Smut Debate begin.

And could the Web's porn police monitor the entire Internet? Of course not.

In reality, there wouldn't be any smut cops. The .xxx domain would simply open shop, and the sex industry would be free to do business there.

It's a safe bet that many inhabitants of the porn underworld aren't the exactly reputable types. Chances are many would shun the .xxx ghetto. And even if they did do business there, they might very well keep their .com domains to lure more customers who can't access the smut domain.

My suggestion: Keep things as they are. Libraries, schools, and parents can do what they do now: Enforce a no-porn policy. But the .xxx domain isn't going to achieve its backers' goals of creating a porn-free Internet--albeit one with a very large red-light district.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at

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