.xxx domain appears likely

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The .xxx Internet domain for pornography is a major step closer to becoming a reality after an authoritative body announced June 25 its approval of the proposal.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the creation of Web addresses, reversed course after a decade of denying the request and voted to allow the application for the domain to move forward.

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land described the decision as "a bad idea that will have damaging and far-reaching consequences."

"Instead of restricting pornography to a zone of such .xxx-labeled sites, it will expand the amount of pornography available on the Internet and further pollute our nation's psyche with the spiritual toxic waste that is pornography," Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press.

"In lieu of searching for ways to expand the reach of this destructive material, as is the intent of this decision by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, society should be focused on reining in the availability of this undistilled evil that corrodes souls, tears apart families and threatens our nation's moral fabric at its base," Land said.

Donna Rice Hughes, president of the anti-pornography Enough Is Enough organization, likewise noted, "The creation of a .xxx domain sounds good in theory but is a very bad idea" that will "allow Internet pornographers to co-locate their content on both their existing .com domains and the new .xxx domain, thus dramatically increasing pornography's pollution of the Internet."

"Internet pornography is taking a significant toxic toll on our nation's children and families; harms are widespread and addictions are skyrocketing -- impacting productivity, relational, social and psychological health," Hughes, a former Child Online Protection Act commissioner, said.

Expecting pornographers to voluntarily give up their successful .com addresses and locate solely on the .xxx domain, Hughes said, "is both foolish and shortsighted." And because many families do not utilize filtering software to prevent access to pornography on home computers, a .xxx domain will only make such content more easily accessible, she said.

ICANN approved a detailed set of next steps for the application, including negotiations on a draft registry agreement and consultation with ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee, an organization of 100 governments. ICANN said it changed its stance after an independent review panel said the board should reconsider its 2007 rejection of the .xxx proposal. The board also took into consideration "extensive public comment" on the matter.

Patrick Trueman, a former chief of the U.S. Department of Justice's child exploitation and obscenity section, had urged concerned citizens earlier this year to voice their objection to the domain.

"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."

The pornography industry is worth about $13 billion a year, the Associated Press reported, and the chief promoter of the .xxx domain said the new address could easily attract at least 500,000 sites. The word "sex" already is the number one search term in the world, accounting for 25 percent of all Internet searches, according to Reuters.

"This is a virtually untreated pandemic," Trueman said. "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," Trueman 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."

With an estimated 370 million pornographic websites already on the Internet, .xxx could become one of the largest domain name repositories, as big if not bigger than .com, Reuters reported.

Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.

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