March 30, 2007 9:15 AM PDT

ICANN rejects .xxx domain registry

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has rejected a controversial proposal to create a new .xxx domain suffix for adult Web sites.

ICANN on Friday voted 9-5 to deny an application from ICM Registry, which for the past several years has sought to be the registry for adult-content Web sites.

ICANN, which oversees domain names and Internet addresses, decided that ICM's proposal raised too many public-policy concerns and ultimately could change the role of the nonprofit organization.

"ICM's response does not address (the ICANN Government Advisory Committee's) concern for offensive content and similarly avoids the GAC's concern for the protection of vulnerable members of the community," ICANN stated in the meeting. "The board does not believe these public-policy concerns can be credibly resolved with the mechanisms proposed by the applicant."

ICANN also noted that ICM's proposal could raise significant compliance issues with law enforcement agencies around the globe, many of which have different laws governing pornography.

"There are credible scenarios that lead to circumstances in which ICANN would be forced to assume an ongoing management and oversight role regarding Internet content, which is inconsistent with its technical mandate," ICANN stated in the meeting.

This is not the first time that ICANN has rejected an application from ICM, which has been submitting proposals for a top-level .xxx domain since 2000. Nonetheless, this time, the board was again somewhat divided on the issue.

Susan Crawford, an ICANN director, said she believes ICM's revised proposal addressed the Government Advisory Committee's concerns.

"We asked applicants to demonstrate that the community is precisely defined so it can readily be determined which persons or entities make up that community, and also to state that the community was comprised of persons that have needs and interests in common, but which are differentiated from those of the general global Internet community," according to Crawford's comments in transcripts of the meeting. "It seems to me that the applicant here has identified a sponsored community for .xxx as a self-identified group of adult Webmasters who wish to work together to implement industry best practices in a specific and easily identifiable marketplace."

She added that members of the adult pornography community who support ICM's proposal are aiming to create a forum to develop and enforce best industry practices, largely because they find that one doesn't currently exist elsewhere.

ICM's proposal, however, has faced opposition not only from various conservative groups but also from within the pornography community. Some members of the community have dropped their support of ICM's proposal, citing fears that it would create a "red-light district" and derail the efforts to become more of a mainstream industry.

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