ICANN Again Nixes .xxx Domain

ICANN votes against .xxx election, but one board member says the group is bowing to government pressure in the process.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Mar 30, 2007
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The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) again voted against the creation of an .xxx top level domain (TLD) after some spirited debate.

"This decision was the result of very careful scrutiny and consideration of all the arguments," said ICANN chairman Vint Cerf in a statement. "That consideration has led a majority of the Board to believe that the proposal should be rejected."

Though the majority of the ICANN board rejected the proposal to create a .xxx TLD, the discussion surrounding the vote at the ICANN meeting raised some serious issues about the way that ICANN operates and the role that government influence plays in its decisions.

ICANN board member Susan Crawford noted in the board meeting transcript that .xxx applicant ICM has submitted letters of support to ICANN from members of the adult entertainment community that they assert include supporters from many countries and major providers of adult entertainment.

This included more than 76,000 strings from at least 1,000 unique registrants, which have been prereserved in .xxx, with instructions from ICM that only qualified applicants should request such preregistrations.

According to Crawford, ICM may well have addressed the concerns that ICANN had previously raised.

But Crawford's opposition to the ICANN resolution against the .xxx proposal has more to do with the dynamics of process and governance than any particular ethical reservations.

Crawford said ICANN was influenced by the U.S. government and other governments in the decision-making process. In her view, those interventions should only occur after ICANN makes a ruling.

"If after creation of a triple X TLD certain governments of the world want to ensure that their citizens do not see triple X content, it is within their prerogative as sovereigns to instruct Internet access providers physically located within their territory to block such content," Crawford said.

Crawford, who allowed that such a requirement in the U.S. would violate the first amendment to our Constitution, also said content-related censorship should not be ICANN's concern and that ICANN should not allow itself to be used as a "private lever for government chokepoint content control."

Debate over the creation of a .xxx domain has dogged ICANN for nearly seven years at this point. ICANN reopened discussion about the creation of the .xxx registry this past January.

That followed a 9-5 vote down in May 2006, which in turn followed a move by the U.S. Department of Commerce to delay a decision about the domain.

The first attempt to create the registry failed back in November of 2000.

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