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Once Again, ICANN Rejects XXX Domain

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has once again rejected a proposal to create a top-level “.xxx” domain for adult-oriented online content. “This decision was the result of very careful scrutiny and consideration of all the arguments. That consideration has led a majority of the Board to believe that the proposal should be rejected” said Dr Vint Cerf, Chairman of ICANN. The move is the second time a proposal to create an adult-oriented “red-light district” on the Internet; almost a year ago, ICANN rejected another proposal for a “.xxx” domain due to pressure from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which still maintains ultimate veto power on ICANN policy.

Advocates for the creation of an adults-only top-level domain on the Internet insist the domain would make it simple for parents, schools, organizations, and individuals to easily filter out sex sites and pornographic content. Opponents argue it would also make adult content easier for minors to find and, since there would be no requirement the enormous number of existing sex and pornography sites migrate to the new top-level domain, do nothing to “clean up” adult material using existing top-level domains like .com, .net, .tv, etc.

The debate about the creation of a top-level adults-only domain dates back to the year 2000, and in recent times has become a lightning rod regarding issues of Internet governance, raising debate about the way ICANN operates and the role of the U.S. government in setting ICANN policy. The European Union and nations around the world have accused the United States of imposing its political will on Internet governance, leading to calls for Internet management to be handed over to a truly international organization, perhaps under the auspices of the United Nations. For its part, ICANN has been trying to shake off the yoke of U.S. government mandates, recently entering into an agreement with the Commerce Department (running through 2009) which lets the organization begin to set up an independent, multi-stakeholder governance model. However, the Commerce Department has yet cede any authority over ICANN, and has described the management of top-level Internet services as a matter of U.S. national security.