Vice Squad
Friday, March 30, 2007
 
XXX X'ed


Do you know that common internet problem, when you are searching for some adult-themed material and you can't decide whether the best domain names end in .org, .gov, .edu, or .com, among others? For years now, some public-spirited individuals have been hoping to solve that problem, by creating the .xxx domain for the exclusive use of pornographic sites. But this week, the folks in charge of domain names, the super-mysterious ICANN, said ICANNT for the third time to the .xxx domain. Some of those opposed to the proposed domain cited the possibility that the voluntary registry, once established, might be made mandatory for pornographic sites, and ease the way for censorship. Further, ICANN might then find itself in the censorship game, as its decisions as to what sites merited the .xxx domain would determine (in combination with censorial legislation) the access of users to the sites. The opposition-to-.xxx forces include some strange bedfellows, pornographic sites that fear a slippery slope towards censorship along with religious groups that fear that an .xxx domain might further legitimize pornography.

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is responsible for giving every human a unique name ending with .abc, where a,b, and c can be any alphabetic string, as well as tattooing a universal product code on every human. Or maybe it "is responsible for the global coordination of the Internet's system of unique identifiers" -- url, upc, the whole thing is quite confusing. If you are worried that ICANN is above the law, do not fear. Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu argue, in Who Controls the Internet?, that the US and other national governments are the ultimate authorities, though the US has permitted ICANN to develop "a form of technocratic self-governance [page 182]."

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