Public urged to take action to prevent .xxx web domain

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A former U.S. Department of Justice employee is urging people to speak out against the proposed formation of an Internet domain exclusively for pornographic websites.

Until May 10, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is accepting input from the public on whether to establish the domain, marking the third time the idea has been considered.

Patrick Trueman, a former chief of the Justice Department's child exploitation and obscenity section, said the .xxx domain would not clean up the .com domain by requiring all pornographers to move to .xxx.

"The .com domain is a cash cow for pornographers and they are not leaving it," Trueman wrote in comments submitted to ICANN. "ICANN has no enforcement powers to make them leave and thus clean up .com. Pornographers would simply expand to .xxx and maintain their current .com sites, perhaps doubling the number of porn sites and doubling their menace to society."

Trueman said the formation of an .xxx domain would not make it easier to filter pornography even if all pornographers would voluntarily move there.

"The problem with filtering is not that it is difficult but rather that too few parents care enough to employ filters for the home or laptop computers used by their children," he wrote.

"Even if most parents did use filters on home computers, kids have access to the Internet outside the home. And it isn't just the kids that need filtering. Addiction to pornography by adults is rampant, so everyone needs filtering but, sadly, few bother."

Such a domain, Trueman said, would in fact make pornography easier for children to find because they would know that everything in that domain falls into that category.

The argument that Congress could pass a law requiring pornography companies to leave the .com domain and change to .xxx is flawed, Trueman said.

"Any law attempting to force pornographers to relocate to .xxx would likely be declared unconstitutional because under the First Amendment all pornography is 'presumptively protected' by the U.S. Constitution until it has been determined to be 'obscene' or 'child pornography,'" he wrote.

"Just as the Department of Justice cannot force porn stores to move or go out of business because it believes that such stores are operating illegally, the department cannot force pornographers on the .com domain to move or go out of business without first charging them with a crime and having a court make a determination of illegality."

Trueman noted that pornography that is already present online is a violation of U.S. law but is not being prosecuted by the Justice Department.

"If the Department of Justice is not prosecuting Internet porn companies now for violating U.S. obscenity laws, it is not going to prosecute such companies for merely locating in the wrong address," Trueman wrote.

Trueman has worked for 25 years to stop the widespread devastation that pornography causes to children and adults, and he said ICANN should not use its authority to promote more of it.

"Men, women and children are becoming addicted to pornography, and I believe the rates of addiction are skyrocketing," he wrote. "This is a virtually untreated pandemic. Many who begin by viewing adult pornography deviate down to harder and harder material as they continue a steady consumption of material and many of these will deviate down to the point that they only become excited by child pornography. This is a significant factor in the growth of child pornography on the Internet.

"Countless marriages are breaking up because of pornography use," he added. "Violence against women, which is depicted in most porn films, is changing male attitudes toward girls and women in a very negative way. A more appropriate goal should be to stop the distribution of this destructive material by prosecuting those responsible for it, not protect pornography on the .xxx domain."

The new domain is being promoted by ICM Registry, an Internet registry operator which will manage the domain. ICM is instructing supporters of the .xxx domain to contact ICANN.

An .xxx domain was considered in 2004 and 2007. Jared Bridges, director of online communications for the Family Research Council, said previously that the establishment of such a domain would grant a legitimizing status to the pornography industry.

"The domains that are available today including .com, .net, .gov, .edu, .us, etc. represent certain areas of societal value," Bridges said. "The proposed revisions do nothing to address the fact that granting a niche business its own top-level domain name would be unique to pornographers, who would gain a status currently only available to groups like schools, governments and nations."

To speak out against the establishment of an .xxx domain, send ICANN an e-mail at icm-options-report@icann.org. The contents of the e-mail can be as simple as "Do not create the .xxx domain," Trueman said.


Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press. In early April Baptist Press posted a four-part series of stories about Internet porn addiction. To read the stories, visit www.bpnews.net and search for "Internet porn addiction" (with the phrase in quotes).

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