‘We like porn — no to .XXX’

Sometimes, it seems, the capacity of apparently sane and rational individuals to hold irrational and self-inconsistent views reaches new heights.

Image by kieren mccarthy via Flickr

Take the strange case of the .XXX domain which was finally approved a couple of hours ago, after many stops and starts over the last few years, though for people outside the rarified world of Internet Governance, it won’t have made much impact.

.XXX was a proposal, hotly debated for many years now, by British-born, Florida-based businessman Stuart Lawley to create a web address suffix (just like .COM for companies or .GG for Guernsey)  to allow content publishers in the euphemistically-named ‘adult entertainment industry’ to create website and email addresses ending in .XXX (e.g. www.se.xxx).

Let’s get one thing straight – whether or not there is such a new extension is a matter of amused indifferernce to me. — it’s somewhat unlikely I should ever want an XXX domain name, but you never know.

What I do see as important, are the rights of internet users to free expression without disproportionate interference in those rights.

Mr Lawley’s plan which he has been promoting for 6 or 7 years,  was fiercely opposed, as you might imagine.

But it was opposed by a most curious coalition.  An unholy alliance between religous and moralist fundamentalists and porn producers.

Yes, that right. Unbeleivably, a part of the industry that the new web address is planned to serve doesn’t want it. (Part does self-evidently).

Now I’ve recently been attending the international meeting at which .XXX was  finally approved.  (I’m not part of the group of people – the ICANN Board – which made the actual decision). Andt the whole meeting was picketed. Even those of us, like me, that werenot directly involved in the decision making process.

The group doing the picketing was the ironically-named ‘Free Speech Coalition’ whose sole message appeared to be ‘Ban .XXX’.

I kid you not, they were chanting ‘Free speech now- no to XXX‘.

Is it only me that can see the irony in a group calling itself the Free Speech Coalition trying to ban some one from using what, after all, is simply a short, three-letter string. They really are confusing labels with content. But that is par for the course in the internet naming industry.

There are well advanced plans for ‘.GAY‘.  Will the the African Bishops get together with Stonewall to oppose .GAY?

Or perhaps Alcoholics Anonymous will join with the Licensed Victuallers to ban .BOOZE

And this is deeply concerning for free speech. It is a fundamental right that we should be allowed to say what we like, within lawful, necessary and proportionate limits.

One of the opposing voices was an attorney and former pornographer, who through an impassioned speech opposing .XXX on free speech grounds, stated that he had the First Amendment tattooed on him.

We took up the argument in the lobby on the way out. Although measured and courteous, he was still impassioned — at one time partially disrobing to show me the actual tattoo.  It was on his bicep, for the curious, not the other place I’d imagined. And it was nothing like how you might imagine someone in the porn industry taking off the clothes in front of you might be

There is no compulsion whatsoever for pornographers to stop using .COM so can someone please tell me where is there any interference with their free speech rights. Yet, these so-called Free Speech advocates  are arguing, dangerously, in my opinion, to suppress a form of expression — the use of a three letter string as top-level domain name by Mr Lawley.

I still don’t get it.


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Public policy input to new domains

I’ve just found the time to read the GAC  communiqué from the ICANN-Brussels meeting.

It’s a mark of the maturity of the whole private-public sector co-operation that is ICANN that in comparison to some of the similar documents I read in 1999 that it is so reasonable in tone.

In particular, the GAC’s observations on the Rule of Law and existing rights (a subject I’ve written on elsewhere on this site in respect to the Cybercrime Recommendations) are entirely sensible to include. While taking the time necessary to get things right is inconvenient, and costly to those who are investing time and money in new business models, NOT getting it right will be incredibly more costly and inconvenient.

Registrars and registries (existing and potential) must welcome public policy input in this fashion, since by working together (in the original spirit of the Internet) something much greater will be achieved than either sector (private industry on the one hand and Government on the other) could acheive alone.

Next week’s ICANN meeting promises to be quite interesting!