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5/11/2006
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ICANN Turns Down .XXX, But Debate Continues

The group's directors voted 9 to 5 to reject the proposal for a dedicated "adult-only" content domain, as parties on both sides continue to make their case.

ICANN's rejection of the controversial .xxx supported Top Level domain (STLD) moved the issue of a dedicated porn area on the Web back to ground zero: its opponents expressed relief Thursday that the demise of the proposed TLD will keep children from easy access to adult sites while advocates of the TDL domain complained that an opportunity to control porn site watching has been lost.

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) clamped a tight lid on the issue, forbidding its directors -- who voted 9 to 5 to reject the domain proposal -- from discussing the issue for 48 hours. ICANN said it will release details on the vote next week.

One organization that lobbied hard against the TLD site, the conservative Family Research Council (FRC), which " champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society . . ." hailed the Wednesday decision.

Particularly disappointed in the vote was Stuart Lawley, whose ICM Registry stood to profit mightily from an .xxx domain. Lawley conceded that his company's business of signing up adult firms would have been lucrative, but he also maintained that a .xxx TLD would enable parents to easily oversee their children's surfing of adult sites.

In an article on the eve of the vote, the Wall Street Journal noted that conservative Christian groups including the FRC lobbied aggressively against the proposed TLD with the U.S. Commerce Department. Right-wing talk radio personalities and other organizations beat the drum, raising the heat against the .xxx proposal. Although the Commerce Department normally takes a hands-off stance on ICANN's affairs, it still is the ultimate authority behind ICANN.

The vote also came in the wake of efforts by several countries to gain a stronger voice in the operation of the Internet. Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of Internet governance at Oxford University, told the Wall Street Journal: "Dot-xxx isn't the best idea in the world. But a virtue of going ahead with it would have been a signal to ICANN's constituencies around the world that it is not just an arm of the U.S. government."

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