a simple essay

Sep13

Should the .xxx be accepted?

A high school student is given an assignment in her biology class to do a report on a certain type of cancer. It just so happens that this student decides to research breast Cancer. Yet, when she sits down at her computer at home and googles breast cancer, she sees nothing but an error page because her parents have blacklisted the word “breast” from the computer. She could ask her parent’s to remove it temporarily, but who are we kidding. She moves on to lung cancer. How can parents, schools, and the general public alike separate pornography from information so that this student can learn the facts about breast cancer?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) recent decision to allow the .xxx Top Level Domain has stirred up a decent amount of controversy when the US government petitioned to postpone the final decision for a month. The Bush administration made the petition after having received concerns from individuals over what the impact of the domain would be, whether it would legitimize pornography on the internet and/or increase the amount of adult content online. All of the fears held by the administration that have been published are too general and vague to have any real value. When the domain was originally proposed and denied five years ago, politicians were outraged that ICANN had not accepted. The creation of an .xxx domain as a form of self regulation can only be thought of as a good idea, even though it will not be a complete solution to separating general information sites from pornographic ones.

One of the main concerns of the .xxx domain is that since it will be voluntary, vendors and other adult websites can continue to keep their current .com, .net, or other domain as well as .xxx. Therefore, while it is grouping together pornographic sites in order to unify the genre (whether it is for the better or worse), it might be a fruitless idea that does nothing more than make it easier to identify certain websites as pornographic. For example, the last names MacDonald and Torrence are both Irish, but “Mac” just makes it easier to identify as Irish. It does not make the name Torrence any less Irish. On the other hand, if the .xxx domain does not get its final approval, then these websites will still be using their current top level domains. This leaves sites that want to have their content filtered easily unable to do so. Perhaps some would prefer to remain some what hidden while others want to stand out?

Another concern is that having an .xxx domain will make it easier to find pornography and other adult content on the internet. However, because all websites in the .xxx domain are presumed to be adult content, a parent or organization could easily block all such websites. One could say that any website that chooses to take the .xxx domain is being responsible by making it easier for parents and schools to block out pornography. Since there will be a central registry were all adult sites will be stored, it is easy to filter both by name and IP address. This filtering could be applied with a software tool by a parent or at the ISP level. Some would argue that adding the .xxx domain makes it easier to find porn, and perhaps this might have a bit of truth to it. In reality; however, you can not find a website that does not exist. Someone can not just type in ILoveMiami.xxx and expect to see naked people. Finding adult or pornographic content on an .xxx domain would probably be done the same as finding it on a .com or .net domain – through a search engine. At least if ILoveMiami.xxx exists, it can be easily spotted as pornography. Where as, if an avid traveler gets invited to ILoveMiami.com and has no warning, he or she is going to be very surprised.

Yet another concern is that the xxx would legitimize pornography and adult content. Yet, I fail to understand how it would legitimize this type of content in any other way than it has already been legitimized. There are no shortages of adult book and video stores, lingerie shops, and strip clubs in the world. It might actually be easier for a child to walk into Barnes & Noble and wander into the “Relationship” section while their parents are browsing than to access an adult site from their home computer, especially if those parents can easily filter out .xxx sites. Besides, the .com domain was intended for company usage, but because of a lack of domains adult websites had need for them as well. Perhaps if the .xxx domain had just been established the same time as the .com and .net domain, everyone would have accepted it. People would have been informed that it helps establish that these websites have what some people consider inappropriate content the same way that .museum or .info tell the user that the website is informational.

Although some of the objections come from other governments, CNET reports for example that the Brazilian government feels that ICANN takes these sorts of decisions to lightly (McCullagh). The Brazilian representative to the UN felt there should be more international say in Top Level Domain (TLD) names, because such names could go against the strong believes of certain societies such as the many Catholics all over the world. While it is a good objection that there could be more international action while deciding the new TLD’s, a society’s beliefs should not be the deciding factor on which names become a TLD’s. It should instead lie in the hands of the industries that need them. International abuse of the .xxx could; however, have some bad consequences. McCullagh notes that foreign nations which do not have free speech protections could force some informational websites that focus on sex, homosexuality, or birth control on to the .xxx domain just so it can be filtered easily. Therefore, if you are a person who believes in free speech for all, it will make it easier for governments to keep information from their citizens.

The .xxx domain only came about from a registry provider that wants to help self regulate the industry. In fact, the recent bid for the .xxx domain by ICM Registry included a plan for a separate not-for profit organization to set rules for the domain. The not-for profit organization would review sites asking for an .xxx domain and keep a set of rules for self regulation. In addition, a certain amount of money from the registration fees would go to this organization to help parents and other groups educate children and families about adult content and pornography on the internet.

Regardless of all the oppositions, I do not think that the addition of an .xxx domain will have any impact on society. It is not as though there are going to be an enormous amount of new websites made because of the .xxx name. If anything, most sites that will get an .xxx domain are current sites that want to be part of a responsible adult community. It will not be any easier to find the content – if anything it will be a helpful guide for those that wish to filter and block this specific content. So, the .xxx should be a Top Level Domain.

Works Cited

McCullagh, Declan. “Bush administration objects to .xxx domains.” CNET News.com. September, 10 2005 < http://news.com.com/Bush+administration+objects+to+.xxx+domains/2100-1028_3-5833764.html >

McCullagh, Declan. “Porn-friendly ‘.xxx’ domains approved.” CNET News.com. September, 10 2005. < http://news.com.com/Porn-friendly+.xxx+domains+approved/2100-1030_3-5728713.html >

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