By Allan Dowd
The fate of the proposed .xxx Internet domain for sex sites, which has
drawn fire from U.S. conservative groups and resistance by the
Commerce Department remains in limbo, according to the head of the
group that oversees the Web domain system.
Paul Twomey, president of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names
and Numbers said on Thursday the group is still awaiting the
recommendations of an advisory committee reviewing the proposal, and
has no plans to make a decision at ICANN's meeting this week in
ICANN announced in June it would move ahead with plans to evaluate
establishing a sex-site domain, but the proposal hit a snag in August
when the U.S. Commerce Department asked for more time to hear
The review committee, made up of representatives from the United
States and other governments, has not told ICANN's board specifically
what objections are holding up the process but that it needs more time
to review the material, Twomey said.
He could not say when the Governmental Advisory Committee would be
The .xxx domain -- which would be like the .com or .net at the end of
an Internet address -- has been pitched by ICM Registry Inc., a
private company that has said it could run it as sort of an online
red-light district that would enable people to easily find pornography
on the Web, or filter it out.
Critics such as the Family Research Council, a conservative U.S.-based
religious group, complain that creating the .xxx domain would only
legitimize the porn industry, and not make it easier to avoid sexual
content on the Web. Some critics of the present system have stated the
opposite is true: By not having an '.xxx' domain for sex it becomes
much harder to avoid sexual content on the Web; '.xxx' could be
filtered, after all.
The case has also been seen as a test of ICANN's independence from the
U.S. government, which has fought off efforts to turn control of the
Internet traffic system over to an international body.
ICANN, a California-based non-profit group, cannot make changes to the
domain-name system -- which matches Web site names to numerical addresses
that computers can read -- without the approval of the U.S. Commerce
Syracuse University professor Milton Mueller said the United States
has compromised its neutrality over the assignment of domains by
intervening in the .xxx case. He said Washington has been lobbying
other governments to oppose the plan.
"If ICANN caves in to this pressure, it reveals to the world that it
really is just a plaything of the U.S. administration, and the
U.S. reveals to the world that it is able and willing to abuse its
power over ICANN," Mueller said.
(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan in Washington)
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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