.XXX domain: A bit like Amsterdam...only different

.XXX domain: A bit like Amsterdam...only different

Summary: Does the .xxx top-level domain actually mean anything for us? Not really. Playboy.com isn't going anywhere.

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For some time now, many groups have called for a special .xxx domain that clearly designates pornographic content on the Internet. How easy would it be to simply filter everything in the so-called "Internet Red-Light District?" Now that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has tentatively agreed to create such a top-level domain, don't go dumping your content filters just yet.

Guess what? It's just a name. Have you ever been to Amsterdam? It's an incredibly cool city with rich history, beautiful museums, countless cultures and all of their associated tasty food, easy walks through the canals, friendly people, and a Red Light District that must be seen to be believed. Even if you have no interest in the pot, the prostitutes, or the live sex shows, it's worth a quick walk through just to say, "Huh...I don't think I'm in Kansas anymore." However, coffeeshops selling marijuana and hash can be found throughout Amsterdam. The concentration is highest in the Red Light District, but they certainly exist elsewhere. Same for prostitution. It's legal and regulated throughout the Netherlands.

The .xxx domain will be no different. According to an article in the New York Times,

...Most...members [of the Free Speech Coalition] planned to continue operating out of their dot-com domains...

In fact, the Times story suggested that only about 10% of the adult sites on the web would adopt a .xxx domain name. It is, after all, just a name. ICANN doesn't set laws or policies. It simply decides, among other things, what top-level domains are available for registration and to whom. It isn't in a position to force Hustler to change the domain name for which it has paid.

So here's what this development boils down to for schools, parents, and anyone else who wants to regulate how much pornography kids see online: nothing. Even some large religious groups opposed the creation of the .xxx domain, suggesting that creation of such a domain would actually encourage online pornography. Interestingly, the city of Amsterdam has moved in recent years to restrict their own Red Light District, citing criminal activity and abuse of the laissez-faire laws in the city. Will the use of the .xxx domain end any differently? Probably not.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Browser, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • The Net has become a cesspool

    Pornography upon more pornography, malware of every stripe, phishing scams, keyloggers and botnets. The criminal underworld - and anti-social derelicts by the score - are having a feast on us. The WWW has morphed into a modern day acronym for the [i]wild, wild west.[/i] Less lethal, but infinitely more degrading. It's like having a not particularly attractive neighbor running around in the nude 24/7 with every window wide open, to including the bathroom portals.

    The Internet remains the only communications medium still largely unregulated, and that's basically due to its embryonic state. While it could be argued that certain upsides derive from its seminal [i]liassez-faire[/i] status, riding shotgun in the shadows is layer upon layer of murk and mire -- filth by any other name. I'm all for a designated electronic playground for adults (if that's your bag), but splashed over every corner of the medium, to include ready access to our young, crosses the bounds of acceptability and responsibility imo.

    The time for a designated .xxx domain zone has come. If nations can't decide to do it unilaterally, then it is up to each one to design its own pipe sieve for the fix. Before one's libertarian or anarchistic impulse kicks into gear, it might be worth asking what other part of society remains as patently unregulated? While many of us prefer governmental control(s) scaled to an absolute minimum, who in their right mind would advocate the elimination of regulatory facets like police and military forces, let alone legislative and judicial oversight? Why should the Net and its delivery pipeline be any different?

    Such action(s) will naturally spur debate and challenges pertinent to free speech (and its regulation) as it tabs our virtual world, but so be it. Like everything else in "civilized" society, the necessary particulars can be hammered out in due course - and hopefully reined to a bare minimum. But segregating smut on the internet should be held to the same standard as it is anywhere else. In much the same way as the majority of rational folks don't want to see the spread of red light districts to each and every street corner!
    klumper
    • Got news for you, the Internet IS regulated.

      @klumper

      Just because something is on the internet as opposed to printed on a piece of paper doesn't make it any less illegal. Child porn is just as illegal on a computer as it is would be in a magazine or videotape. Threats in emails are just as illegal a they are in regular mail. Fraud is just as illegal.

      You are wrestling with two different problems that have nothing to do with regulating the internet. First, whether you like it or not, porn is legal. The internet just makes it a lot cheaper and easier to access than it used to be. Your second problem is more pernicious: how to enforce your particular values on the internet without having to adhere to the values of others.

      If I had my preference, there are many types of speech and information that would be suppressed on the internet, including some types that are undoubtedly near and dear to your heart. Fortunately for everyone, neither you nor I seem to be getting our wishes.
      terry flores
      • Got news for you, the Internet IS regulated.... Really?

        @terry flores... You think the internet is regulated? Maybe so... some places (like China) actively regulate access to content originating from outside their borders. They get lots of criticism from those who don't agree with their "what's allowed versus what's forbidden" policies. It's an effort that cannot succeed.

        Since (as you yourself describe) content is regulated in the jurisdiction where the storage hardware resides, we see many servers are in jurisdictions where the content is either legal, or the laws are not effectively enforced.

        So we are left with enforcing "our laws" by focusing enforcement on "our citizens" that cross the line.

        I agree with that, I say forget about restricting content (the Chinese method) and just make sure that we can use the internet infrastructure to track down and prosecute the USA citizens who might set up USA servers that violate USA laws as well as track down and prosecute those USA citizens who view and download content that violates the USA laws.
        jilindi@...
      • RE: .XXX domain: What's in a name?

        @terry flores

        Well said, that man, (assumption made) - the internet is really just a microcosm of the world in which we live. I've travelled quite a lot and have found that the best way to explore places is to get lost in them, armed with some basic information about where it might be unwise or unsafe to go, and have a contingency plan in case I wander into a dodgy area.
        chrispy7
      • Yes, really

        @klumper...

        As terry flores points out, porn is legal, child porm is illegal. It does not matter whether in hard copy or in electronic format.

        You can ask that people that host child porn be prosecuted. You can ask that people downloading such child porn be prosecuted. You would be totally right. But you cannot ask that people who are hosting or viewing straight porn in the USA are prosecuted because porn is legal (in the USA, not necessarily in other countries).

        The problem comes when something is legal in one country and not in another. Child porn is illegal everywhere. Straight porn is forbidden in a significant number of countries, most of them authoritarian ones. In others, it is simply a matter of bad taste. If you try to stop that, you end up setting filters like China has.

        But the solution that you indicate, such as the censorship being performed in China, is no good. Why? Because you start censoring porn "for the good of the citizens". Then you start censoring other things. By the time that they start censoring the opposition -like China does- you realize that you are in a dictatorship. Do you really prefer that?
        Samun56
    • Wandervogel impulses

      @chrispy7<br><br><i>Well said, that man, (assumption made) - the internet is really just a microcosm of the world in which we live. I've travelled quite a lot and have found that the best way to explore places is to get lost in them, armed with some basic information about where it might be unwise or unsafe to go, and have a contingency plan in case I wander into a dodgy area.</i><br><br>Does this same hip, <i>wandervogel</i> advice apply to those under-aged to boot? Does the playground of the internet - and its ever expanding array of dodgy areas - draw any such distinctions for who views what?

      PS. Terry Flores and Samun56 >> kindly look below since orderly replies rarely take with this new layout.
      klumper
    • It won't!

      @klumper

      A .xxx domain will not segregate 'smut' besides what is smut? I've never considered nudity or sexual acts between consenting men and women as in any way 'smutty' or 'dirty'. No-one HAS to access pornography and for those who choose to (incidentally a far larger group of people than most self-righteous people will admit) it is far easier and less degrading at free online sites than eg buying an adult magazine at the local or not so local shop! I'm VERY concerned at your use of 'unregulated due to 'embryonic state' '. WHAT NONSENSE... The Internet in its present form has been around for nearly 20 years, rather a grown-up status. Heaven help us if so called do-gooders for power or control reasons of their own had any say in most of the Internet. Basically most free and many paid for 'porn' sites will (sensibly!) choose not to register as .xxx and as many are out of US influence, SO WHAT!
      chaz15
  • PS to the zdnet webmaster

    [i]It's like having a not particularly attractive neighbor running around in the nude 24/7 with every window wide open, [b]to including[/b] the bathroom portals.[/i]

    Simple typos could be fixed on the fly, if the [b]EDIT CONTROLS[/b] worked as they should! Is that asking too much to provide?
    klumper
    • RE: .XXX domain: What's in a name?

      @klumper How would you want the "EDIT CONTROLS" to work? "to" and "including" are both legitimate words. The WAY in which they are put together is NOT legitimate.
      Neither word is misspelled therefore a spell checker would not find either of them as typos.
      Do you know of any "EDIT CONTROLS" that correct syntax as well as spelling? I don't. Therefore, I found no reason to "correct" the typos made and, yes, I DO find that "too much to provide" so I have to defend the webmaster in this case.
      He/she should have recognized the error upon proofreading but, too many times, we seem to read what we MEANT to write rather what what we actually wrote when we reread it. "To err is human...", etc., etc.
      xffcapt01
  • RE: .XXX domain: What's in a name?

    It's way overdue. It will not impede adults from accessing porn while making it easier for those who want to avoid it do so -- including parents for their kids. The range of hardcore AND WAY BEYOND is too crazy to leave on the mainstream web. Some of the $h!t I've seen... well, just when you thought you've seen it all, Two Girls One Cup comes along!

    And, yes, that should even include Playboy. Publications like Maxim, otoh, where we're talking revealing clothing but not actual nudity (maybe a little butt cheek and cleavage -- what would be "cheesecake shots" today) -- AND it's at least interspersed with actual articles and opinion columns -- while obviously geared towards MEN and not kids I think should stay in the .com realm.

    The comparison to Amsterdam is ridiculous. There is NOTHING culturally redeeming at say, http://throatgaggers.com/ (never been there before, I just had a hunch that domain would exist -- too easy a guess). And yet, even though I personally think that the "Piss Christ"... er... "piece of art" is totally idiotic I would think it would go under the .com umbrella ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_Christ ). And Helmut Newton? I say .com -- even though a Google flagged a webpage I just clicked on through an image search as being known to be dangerous to my computer -- if I used Windows ( http://www.google.ca/imgres?imgurl=http://ytodolodemastambien.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/helmut-newton1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.datakun.com/wp/helmut-newton.html&usg=__GYx4uJqWSscNMUzmMXHrdzvgUGw=&h=1024&w=828&sz=260&hl=en&start=3&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=YFxOiA9KxnLm7M:&tbnh=150&tbnw=121&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dhelmut%2Bnewton%2Bphotos%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Doff%26client%3Dsafari%26sa%3DN%26rls%3Den%26tbs%3Disch:1 )

    Having said all that I know interpretation would be difficult and whoever decides what goes where will surely get some things wrong. But my God, just imagine how much bullshit spam and tricks will be rendered inert? Yeah, not all -- but a lot!

    It's the lessor of two evils and I'm all for it.
    dropzone@...
    • RE: .XXX domain: What's in a name?

      @dropzone@...

      "whoever decides what goes where will surely get some things wrong"

      You have completely missed the main point--there is NOBODY empowered to make such decisions. While ANYBODY can decide for themselves that they consider ANY given site to be "pornographic," NOBODY has the authority to force any site to use the "xxx" domain. It's purely voluntary.
      6502coder
      • RE: .XXX domain: What's in a name?

        @6502coder

        it's VOLUNTARY??

        How lame. I apologize because I skimmed this column.

        Regardless, just because there is currently no enforcement does not mean it is a bad idea; they just have to enforce it! Movies, games, music and magazines are rated to make it easier for people to make decisions (or at least for those parents that do). The web is too fluid a thing to leave such things to self-governance.
        dropzone@...
    • RE: .XXX domain: What's in a name?

      @dropzone@... Agree. But creating the domains is only part of the issue, the other is worldwide legal measures to move the content. I'd suggest that .XXX is hard core and .AO is anything you wouldn't want your children to see. No barriers to adults, easy to set up home and education routers for security, and even if you are a total luddite the router is not allowed to be sold in your country unless it is preconfigured appropriately. Why do I believe this? Because I live in Australia where we have a total flip called Senator Conroy who plans to monitor every packet I look at ....to protect the kiddies he says! We think he is more interested in ultimate population control than protecting children. Doing this is no silver bullet...but it is arguably the most sensible start and infinitely preferable to doing nothing or to monitoring every packet. I was in the Paris recently and in a Musee d'Orsay I saw a painting called 'The Origin of the World' by Courbet. Is this art? Maybe, but I wouldn't want a bunch of 11 year olds acccessing it on school computers. Letting politicians and bureaucrats decide our social and sexual and political mores can only end in draconian states (China?). Applying draconian laws to offenders who promote inappropriate behaviours to children (drugs and sexuality) is not. I think this will be a win win situation. If I am an education worker I can feel reasonably confident the children are protected, if I am a sex worker I won't get so many time wasters. And if I am a gormless parent who does not care or understand, or worse, believes my little johnny wouldn't do that, I'll have a measure of protection I do not have now. As an I.T. person who has spent countless hours recovering computers from little johnny's foolishness ( click here to get free porn and destroy the planet...click!) I believe that it is not an all or nothing debate, but a what do we monitor and why debate. Unless I am missing it, those who oppose this idea have no alternative that will work.
      leigh@...
  • LOL!

    So, this zdnet.com site is set to automatically sensor the word in my post, "hrdkr" (even though that word can have nothing to do with porn), but I snuck $h!t through and it let "piss" through but not "blsh!t"

    Hmm... let's try this: This b!tch was dissing the Mac so I shoved her onto the floor and pissed on her face. I'm a Mac hardcore who doesn't take no bullshit.

    lol. Sorry ZDNET; I won't do that again. But it IS a relevant post! :)
    dropzone@...
  • RE: .XXX domain: What's in a name?

    I don't see the ".XXX" domain names protecting anybody from anything. The sex trade will undoubtedly move into these "new addresses" to make it easier for their "new clients" to find their products easier. They will also keep their "old addresses" because (1) in general, they don't want to lose their old customers, (2) more specifically, they don't want to lose their high dollar wall street wizards, bankers, and elected officials whose daytime sex purchases from their office computer might be more easily blocked by the office IT staff.

    Even though sex trade (like prostitution) is legal in some jurisdictions, it still thrives where it is not legal (or wanted by the moral majority). Why would we expect the virtual sex trade to evolve differently?
    jilindi@...
    • RE: .XXX domain: What's in a name?

      @jilindi@... I tried to stay out of this but had to comment due to some of the post. I hope they put it into effect and force xxx entertainment into this realm. Why? It would silence the hypocrites. There are way more porn suffers than there admitters. By putting everything under xxx we can get rid of stealth porn suffers. You know the ones that cry every time they sign into the net they are directed to a porn site. If they have that kind of connection, they have a membership and the site tabbed. Go figure!
      eargasm
    • RE: .XXX domain: What's in a name?

      @jilindi@... WELL SAID my friend, besides for the servers owners, Porn isn't the only business that they make money on. SPAM and MAIL BOT SPAM is the next one and that area of their business not only promotes the porn sites but Web-cam Girl and Dating sites as well. Because it's SPAM they are sending They really don't want to make it easy to filter and remove them from your IN-BOX.
      JWBeall
  • RE: .XXX domain: What's in a name?

    A simple redirect from their existing .coms to their new .xxx handles it, no probs. No adult "clients" lost -- the sites don't even have to change their marketing -- and yet, if a browser has parental controls turned on the redirect will be prevented. Preferences could even be set for an automatic redirect to Disney.com (or whatever) Easy (I'd say).
    dropzone@...
    • Beautiful

      @dropzone@...
      [i]A simple redirect from their existing .coms to their new .xxx handles it, no probs. [/i]

      And a step in the right direction. One of many that could be implemented I should add (dependent on finding the requisite will, and where the parameters are chosen to be drawn).
      klumper
  • RE: .XXX domain: What's in a name?

    Actually, I think that we're taking the totally opposite approach. Admittdly, the curent state of affairs of the internet are beyond repair. It'll never happen. So, why not create new top-level domains - call them clean domains - or something like that (.ccom, .cnet, .cinfo - etc. - or whatever - doesn't really matter) where you can only purchase a domaine name IF you agree to certain terms such as no porn, no malware, etc. The agreement could be such that an oversight committee would look into any accusations into abuse and if found to be valid, they would have the authority to pull the plug on the site immediately. The increased domain registration fees (a suggestion) would cover the costs of the oversite committee. Since purchasing a domain name under this classification would be voluntary, one really couldn't complain of any freedom of speach issues - if you don't like it; go get the "regular" top level domain name and not the one which has the restrictions. This way all the porn sites can keep what they already have and the rest of us can just do our searches using the new names. I really don't like the idea personally, but what I like even less is getting blind-sided by a web site pretending to be something it's not or worse yet, worrying about my kid stumbling into them or even worse, having some archaic filter determine that a ligit website - say one about breast cancer awareness - get blacklisted because of it's name or key words. Just a thought.
    teknicalservices