Porn gains its .xxx Web domain

WASHINGTON (BP)--Pornography now has its own online domain -- to the chagrin of pro-family advocates.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the creation of Web addresses, approved the establishment of the .xxx domain for sexually explicit material in a 9-3 vote at the March 18 meeting of its board in San Francisco.

The decision does not mean all pornographic sites will be limited to the .xxx domain, however. Porn businesses still will be able to use .com and other domains.

Pro-family leaders decried ICANN's action.

"The addition of this new domain will just make the Internet even more of a moral minefield," said Dwayne Hastings, vice president at the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "Anything that further legitimizes pornography as a morally neutral endeavor is not good."

Pat Trueman, chief executive officer of Morality in Media, said the new domain "would increase, not decrease[,] the spread of pornography on the Internet, causing even more harm to children, families and communities, and make ICANN complicit in that harm."

The spread of online pornography will come with great costs, opponents said.

"Pornography is not a victimless crime," Hastings said. "It contributes to prostitution, sex trafficking and sexual assaults. It destroys lives and tears families apart.

"Most of us live lives insulated from this destructive filth, and that's good," he said. "The problem is that a growing number of people, including children, are being exposed and exploited by pornography and those who make billions off its production and sale."

The profits from pornography in the United States are staggering, according to statistics cited by Hastings: $13 billion in revenue from porn in a year, and $3 billion from child porn, which is illegal.

The Obama administration has faltered in acting to stop the expansion of pornography, Trueman and others have said.

As he has in the past, Trueman urged Attorney General Eric Holder to enforce obscenity laws. "A more appropriate goal should be to stop the distribution of this destructive material by prosecuting those responsible for it, not protect pornography through the use of [a] .xxx domain," said Trueman, who formerly was chief of the Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

Unlike previous administrations, the Obama White House did not publicly oppose ICANN's approval of a .xxx domain, Hastings said. An administration spokesman, however, criticized the decision after the vote.

"We are disappointed that ICANN ignored the clear advice of governments worldwide, including the U.S.," said Lawrence Strickling, assistant secretary of Commerce and administrator of the National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration, according to "This decision goes against the global public interest, and it will open the door to more Internet blocking by governments and undermine the stability and security of the Internet."

Strickling said government officials are "skeptical" the new domain "will provide any additional protection for children."

In approving a .xxx domain, ICANN rejected advice from its Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), which consists of representatives of various governments. GAC informed ICANN it did not actively support the new domain. It said some of its members do not endorse or oppose a .xxx domain but others "are emphatically opposed from a public policy perspective" to its introduction. Some governments might seek to bar access to the domain in their countries, GAC warned.

Even members of the porn industry opposed ICANN's decision.

The Free Speech Coalition -- the trade and legal advocacy organization for the adult entertainment industry, as it is known – charged the new domain would make blocking porn sites easier, increase online fees for such businesses, be a first step toward online censorship and help children to access pornography.

It also criticized the fact that one company would have control of the adult entertainment industry online. ICM Registry will manage the .xxx domain as a result of ICANN's approval of its application.

ICANN's March 18 vote represented the completion of a reversal in policy. ICANN had rejected such a request for a decade when it voted last June to permit the application to move ahead in the process.

Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Erin Roach, an assistant editor for Baptist Press, contributed to this article.

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