“X” marks the spot for debate

Published 8:52 am Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Who knew such a stir would be generated by just three letters.

The letter “X” by itself is harmless, but if you string together three of those alphabet entries in succession, most individuals would immediately identify XXX to imply of explicit sexual matter.

I’m not wading into this subject matter to offer my views on pornography…some see it as an art form; others view it as the Devil’s work….but rather to enlighten the weekly readers of this space of a recent meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The board governing that international body, one that manages Web addresses, will not decide until June whether or not to approve the latest proposal for a “.xxx” top-level domain.

This is not the first time that ICANN – a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable – has dealt with the .xxx issue.

According to christianpost.com, similar proposals for the .xxx domain in 2000, 2006, and 2007 were rejected by ICANN and had drawn strong opposition from conservatives groups such as the Family Research Council, which argued that “pornographers will be given even more opportunities to flood our homes, libraries and society with pornography through the .xxx domain.”

Though browsers or filters could be easily configured to automatically block sites designated as .xxx, Web experts have expressed concerns over the false sense of security that the top-level domain could give parents, who would still have to worry about pornography on .com sites as the addition of the .xxx domain would simply provide another platform for adult sites and not result in an exodus from .com domains.

In recent years, ICANN officials were leery of even allow a .kids domain. The idea was to have a safe place for young children to surf the Web, but ICANN staff members wondered who then would decide what material is safe and how registrars could be certain that visitors were actually children.

I did some online research to find out what other Internet domains are out there, other than the ones most all of us are accustomed to using (.com, .edu, .net, .gov). What I discovered was that ICANN currently accredits numerous domain-name registrars for the what they term as Top Level Domains. They include: .aero (reserved for the global aviation community); .asia (reserved for the Pan-Asia and Asia Pacific region); .biz (restricted to businesses); .cat, (reserved for the Catalan linguistic and cultural community); .coop (reserved for cooperatives) .jobs (reserved for the human resource management community); .mobi (reserved for consumers and providers of mobile products and services); .pro (restricted to licensed professionals); and .travel, (reserved for entities whose primary area of activity is in the travel industry).

While opponents of .xxx say such a domain will increase the amount of pornography on the internet, the ICANN board initiated a 70-day process of receiving and gauging public comments on the issue. They are scheduled to convene again in June to further discuss the use of .xxx as a top-level domain.

Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.