ICANN Rejects .xxx, Approves .tel

In a controversial move, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Named and Numbers (ICANN) has voted against the creation of a top-level “.xxx” domain for adult Web sites, creating a sort of online “red-light district” for adult materials. Opponents argued such a domain would represent a threat to children and a legitimatization of obscene content; proponents argued a “.xxx” domain would more easily enable filtering of objectionable material.

The decision reverses a preliminary approval of a “.xxx” top-level domain in June of 2005; however, at that time ICANN postponed a final decision in August 2005 owing to pressure from the U.S. government, leading many critics to question ICANN’s independence. While ICANN ostensibly governs the Internet, ultimate veto power on its decisions rests with the U.S. Commerce Department.

In its explanation of the rejection, ICANN executive Paul Twomey said the decision was not based on politics, but rather sought to avoid setting up ICANN as an arbiter of often contradicting speech-related laws in many countries. Speech banned in some nations is protected in others; similarly, definitions of obscenity and material deemed harmful to minors vary widely by nationality and jurisdiction.

The EU’s European Commission says the rejection of a “.xxx” domain clearly demonstrated U.S. government interference in ICANN processes, and amounted to little more than the United States attempting to impose its values on the rest of the world.

Although ICANN doesn’t yet make mention on their site or meeting minutes, the Associated Press is reporting ICANN also approved the “.tel” top-level domain. Although the .tel domain doesn’t seem to have generated a lot of opposition, it also doesn’t seem to have much interest: the domain would exist mainly to synchronize phone, email, and Web site information for individuals and companies.

Editors' Recommendations