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The .XXX Domain: Online “Porn Ghetto” Soon to Open for Business

Last Updated: April 14, 2015

The .XXX domain will create a virtual “red light district.”

The world is closer than ever before to the existence of an Internet “red light district” — the .XXX domain.

This new top-level domain (like .COM or .ORG) is due to appear in early 2011. What does this mean for Internet users? Well…not much.

Why have this domain in the first place? According to the purveyors of .XXX, this new domain would be a highly-monitored location in cyberspace, a full porno hub, free of spyware, spam, credit-card thieves, and illegal sexual content. Every website in the domain would be properly registered and tagged, making them easy to find—and easy to filter.

The History of .XXX

The .XXX initiative jumped a major hurdle back in June when ICAAN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) agreed to begin contract negotiations. The .XXX domain idea was first proposed in 2004, but ICAAN rejected it several times. Some ICAAN board members feared the possibility of getting wrapped up in the tricky task of Internet content regulation.

To the tune of $60 per domain, the Florida-based company ICM Registry stands to make millions of dollars. ICM will manage the triple-x suffix and has already pre-registered over 185,000 domains. ICM is sponsored by the International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR), a non-profit organization with a Policy Council made up mostly of adult industry representatives and a few child protection advocates.

.XXX has one more hurdle to jump in December when ICAAN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) voices its opinion. Some in the GAC wonder whether controversial domains should be added to the Internet and want to know if ICM has sufficient support from its “sponsored community,” i.e. the porn industry. Notably, the Free Speech Coalition, the “trade association” of the U.S. Adult entertainment industry, has spoken out against the .XXX domain. They fear it will create a “porn ghetto” online, and that the domain is only one step closer to governments mandating its use.

The Regulation of Porn Online

Certainly conservative groups who want better filtering mechanisms are in favor of this, right? Wrong. Of course domains ending in .XXX will be easy to block, but using the suffix will not be mandatory for porn-makers. Authorities in the adult industry anticipate about 90% of Internet pornography will still not exist on the new domain. The task of filtering will continue to be a challenge.

Many conservative religious groups have raised their concerns about the domain. They fear that .XXX will both expand and further legitimize online adult content, making it harder to enforce existing obscenity laws. Some of these groups include the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Women for Decency, Utah Coalition Against Pornography, and PornHarms.com.

Some believe much of the pornography readily available online today should be considered “obscene” material, and therefore should be at least regulated, if not declared illegal. The U.S. has a long-standing history of “obscenity laws” that have been upheld in the courts.

But isn’t the proliferation of pornography protected under First Amendment rights? Not according to the Supreme Court. Justice William J. Brennan said, “this Court has always assumed that obscenity is not protected by the freedoms of speech and press” (Roth v. United States, 1957). In the 1973 case, Miller v. California, the Supreme Court ruled that obscenity laws rightly apply to hardcore pornography because it appeals to an unwholesome interest in sex, it portrays sex in a patently offensive way, and it lacks “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” In the Miller case, the Justices added, “to equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial exploitation of obscene material demeans the grand conception of the First Amendment and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom.”

Many conservatives agree with the idea of government censorship of pornography. In a recent survey done by Covenant Eyes, 60% of respondents said, “All forms of pornography should be made illegal,” and an additional 17% said, “Some hardcore, graphic, or obscene forms of pornography should be illegal.” Among these same survey respondents, nearly 80% said pornographers should be forced to use the .XXX domain.

The Future of .XXX

Internet porn in the U.S. alone is a $3 billion-a-year business, and the .XXX domain is just one corporation’s way to try to get a slice of the porn pie. For some it seems like a win-win-win situation: those who wish to filter adult content will have an easier time doing it, the adult industry can show due diligence in self-regulation, and ICM can fatten their wallets. Many conservative groups and porn producers disagree…except for the part about ICM getting rich.

While the future of .XXX may have an impact on how pornography is dealt with in the governmental sphere, it will likely have very little impact on Internet safety or the rising tide of porn online. For concerned parents the protocols remain the same: have good ongoing conversations with your kids about responsible use of the Internet, help your kids to set healthy boundaries about the time they spend and the places they go online, and use good technology to your advantage.

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