Friday, March 30, 2007

ICANN rejects .xxx top level domain

This is a good thing. I posted earlier this month about the window for public comments, so you know you had a chance to put in your own two cents about what you wanted ICANN to do: 2 March 2007: News from the world of Porn.

In the BBC News story about the ICANN decision several of the board members of ICANN, including Vint Cerf, the who is thought of as the father of the internet itself, explained their reasoning:

It was rejected by nine votes to five. Paul Twomey, Icann's chief executive abstained from the vote.

"This decision was the result of very careful scrutiny and consideration of all the arguments," said Dr Vinton Cerf, chairman of Icann. "That consideration had led a majority of the board to believe that the proposal should be rejected."

Many on the board voted against the proposals because they felt that accepting the domain would mean Icann would be seen as a regulator of content, deciding what is pornographic and what is not. This was not the role of the agency, they argued.

"My decision turned on one point and one point only," board member Steve Goldstein told Associated Press.

"The last point in our board's resolution that under the revised agreement that we, Icann, would be forced to assume ongoing management and oversight roles regarding the content and that is inconsistent with Icann's technical mandate."


The commercial interest that has been sponsoring these regular fights for a new TLD registry that could be used to restrict internet porn says this:


"We are extremely disappointed by the board's action today," Stuart Lawley, ICM's president and chief executive told Associated Press. "It is not supportable for any of the reasons articulated by the board."

ICM Registry argue that a .xxx domain would act as a quality control for the industry and would allow individuals and families wishing to avoid adult content to easily filter it.

[BBC News]


Plenty of well established content filtering schemes already exist today, and most responsible U.S.-based internet purveyors of porn opt to use them. The two most prominent examples are the standards, labels and tools hosted by ICRA.org (this blog uses an ICRA tag, to protect children from the very dangerous mammary glands of Erica Campbell, which are clearly threaten to take over the world, hypnotizing men, yet hopefully will be wielded as a force for good, averting the apocalypse and further loss of freedom and biodiversity).

Another very good, voluntary content labeling system has been set up by the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection. Called the RTA Label (Restricted to Adults), the tags are less granular and more clear in labelling content that is not only innapprppriate for children, but designed and designated by the content publisher for adults only.

For parents, simple solutions like the Parental Control Bar exist. And for other media and devices, Playboy has created what maybe a useful site for parents to consider, though it is too flash-heavy for me to spend much time on, researching and reviewing: Take Parental Control.

Not everyone sees the diversity of porn now present on the internet as necessarily unhealthy to minors. As Raphael Krut-Landau (in the Johns Hopkins News-Letter) writes:

You may not have watched porn when you were a kid. If you didn't, you were missing out, not necessarily on sex (maybe while I was waiting for downloads to complete, you were getting boned), but in any event you were missing out developing some truly useful secret agent skills.

Watching porn when you're a kid is a lesson in stealth. You start thinking about sight lines. Can my parents see the computer screen if they walk in? Escape routes are critical. How quickly can I minimize the movie player? Finding just the right volume is essential. I can't watch this on mute; the moaning is half the fun. Maybe I'll turn it down real low. But can I reach for the mute button in time? It's all about being one step ahead of the enemy. If I wear headphones, will I hear my mom coming up the stairs? It's a clandestine operation worthy of Jack Bauer's talents.


It is up to parents to outsmart their kids to restrict their access to harmful influences in life. Guns, hard drugs, alcohol, military recruiters are all probably more dangerous, and more present in the lives of adolescents than any kind of porn that could realistically be viewed as harmful. The diversity of porn, especially user generated content on sites like PornoTube may even be a key to creating a healthier culture when it comes to sex, body image, and more sex:

People ask little of porn, except that it reflects back at us what we already find sexy. We find the unfamiliar unappealing. Perhaps the narrowness of mainstream pornography is the problem.

If I may speak freely ... Porn viewers of the world: you are subject to a tyranny of monolithic tastes!

Liberation is possible. I speak of democracy — a democracy for porn.

As you are by now no doubt sick of hearing, we are witnessing the rise of Web sites for the free, person-to-person exchange of media. You can share videos on YouTube, Google Video and Hopkins' own J-Stream. You can share photos on Facebook and Flickr. The most ground-breaking aspect of these Web sites is that the exchange is relatively unrestricted. There are no arbiters of taste deciding what qualifies for YouTube. And this is turning the production and consumption of art into something more democratic. Nothing stands between the artists and the audience.

All hail the arrival of the social porn site! The most popular is modeled after YouTube and is naturally dubbed PornoTube.

If you're of age, you can watchfree erotic videos and photos created by other visitors — the seductions and pleasures of average Janes and Joes. And if you're so inclined, you can upload your own work.

Sites like PornoTube — XTube, yuvutu and LubeYourTube are in the same genre — they give attention to those more obscure kinds of porn that might be harder to come by (pardon the pun). The original problem wasn't that minority-kink porn was non-existent, or even out of the reach of Google, but the much more trenchant problem of being ousted out of the marketing race. PornoTube, by contrast, is purely meritocratic — it gives porn of all kinds the same chance to succeed.

PornoTube also smudges the boundary between the pornography and the viewer. The people who bring you this porno are not, as you used to assume, part of some vast triple-X empire, a multimillion-dollar screw factory, masterminded by a cigar-chewing pilgarlic who paces through his alabaster-`n-brick mansion in Beverly Hills, talking loudly at his associates through his fat moustache, laughing with porn stars, drunk on his own pomp.

The new pornographer is the same kind of normal human being as the viewer — people from your college, those girls from your high school, that dude and his kinky boyfriend down the road and millions of real Hot, Horny and Lonely Housewives.

Best of all: you can finally have an audience for all of those self-produced pornos you have kicking around in the attic.

And the porn you'll find (if you avoid the commercial videos) is real, not the simulacra you might be used to. Real humans, real sex, real sweat, blood and tears. The moaning is real. The screaming is real. The tits are real, sometimes.

So, ahem, it would seem I've worked myself into a difficult corner here. Am I then going to advocate that eighth-graders should also become pornographers? No. There is the obvious moral issue. (And besides, would they even know the first thing about lighting?)

But I do think that if eighth-graders are going to be looking at porn — and they'll always find it, in spite of preventative technological measures — the porn they see, which shapes how they see sex, should be realistic, featuring normal humans, men with realistic stamina levels, women with realistic dimensions and who actually have orgasms. Hopefully the state of porn, and human sexuality, will be healthier for it.

[Raphael Krut-Landau, Johns Hopkins News-Letter]


In the end, it is up to parents to be parents, not technocrats who are intrusted with the care and feeding of the internet, not uptight Judeo-Christian lawmakers that want to legislate their own religious codes as law, not authoritarians that want to experiment with excessive political manipulation of the Department of Justice, and use "obscenity" as a cover for their outrages.

Related articles on other sites:

Slashdot: ICANN Rejects .XXX Top Level Domain, Again

Boston Herald - Porn sites and religious groups unite as vote on ’.xxx’ Internet address nears

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