April 18, 2011

The Story Behind Dot-XXX: We Still Oppose It and You Should Too

It’s been over ten years since the idea of creating top-level domain (TLD) specifically for pornographic sites. Last week, dot-xxx finally went into operation.

IMC, which operates dot-xxx domains, list several benefits for adult producers who use the dot-xxx domain. They believe that by making dot-xxx a recognizable brand through multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, they can bring security and confidence to porn consumers who have grown afraid of the potential for malware and abusive practices generally believed to be common problems with adult sites.

ICM also promises the ability for parents and companies to easily filter adult sites to ensure children and employees do not access pornographic content. Simultaneously, through registry-sponsored portals and directed search, they promise adult webmasters an increase in traffic and access to untapped markets. They also promise the implementation of a payment system that does not excessively charge producers of pornographic content, and enables consumers to make anonymous payments.

This is all well and good, except much of it is a bunch of hot air, and we’ll tell you why.

FILTERING

At present, the registration of dot-xxx domains is not mandatory. Adult content producers can take it or leave it. So the promise of saving the children and cleaning up companies by removing the temptation of viewing porn on the job cannot really be fulfilled. In order to make good on this promise, registration would have to become compulsory, which is not as far-fetched as some imagine. As CNET’s chief political correspondent Declan McCullagh writes:

The problem, in other words, is that as soon as .xxx launches, conservatives in Congress will begin to clamor for laws to make the domain mandatory for sex-related Web sites. That may not be a big deal for hard-core pornmeisters who prefer that virtual street address, but what about sex education sites that include explicit graphics and don’t wish to be blocked by filtering software? And where should Salon.com — which features images of topless women — or Playboy.com — which publishes important interviews with U.S. presidents — end up?

DEFINE “ADULT”

McCullagh brings up a good point. At present, dot-xxx exists for the producers of “sexually-oriented adult entertainment” ; however, there is no established definition of what constitutes “sexually-oriented adult entertainment.”

Without a definition to work with, it’s hard to say what sites could end up being forced to move to an easily filtered dot-xxx domain.

Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) advises caution. In an XBIZ.net thread discussing dot-xxx last year, she warned about congressional interest in making dot-xxx domain registration mandatory:

When [the board chair of FSC] Jeffrey Douglas and I traveled to Lisbon to lobby against ICM’s application [for a dot-xxx top level domain for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)] in 2007, we carried with us legislation that Max Bachus [sic] planned to introduce to Congress mandating .XXX for all adult businesses. There is a very real possibility – not a possibility, but a probability – that such legislation will be introduced again.

McCullagh echoes this concern in his piece for CNET, noting:

At a hearing in February 2001, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., demanded to know why ICANN didn’t approve .xxx “as a means of protecting our kids from the awful, awful filth which is sometimes widespread on the Internet.” Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., griped to a federal commission that .xxx was necessary to force adult Webmasters to “abide by the same standard as the proprietor of an X-rated movie theater.”

Read that closely: the creation of a dot-xxx is necessary to force adult webmasters… Force. Baucus and Lieberman are Democrats and Upton is a Republican. Mandatory registration has bipartisan support.

And while the adult industry is being promised a defense fund by the operators of dot-xxx to ensure that registration remains voluntary, ICM stands to make far more money should Congress pass laws to require dot-xxx registration for the owners of any site deemed to fit the ambiguous category of “adult-oriented entertainment.” And that’s only here in the United States. There is no telling that other governments won’t make registration mandatory, or block the top level domain altogether.

“I don’t think the operators have taken sufficient account of that problem,” Barry Steinhardt, the head of the the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) technology and liberty program, tells CNET. “It will become a worldwide red-light district for the Internet, into which speakers who have free-expression rights and should be able to reach a mass audience will be forced.”

Perhaps you don’t think this applies to you – after all, it’s not like you keep a porn site. But who’s to say nude photography won’t fall under this umbrella of “sexually-oriented adult entertainment”? Or sexual education sites? Or sites that recount sexual experiences? There is no clear definition. Standing by silently is allowing your freedom to express yourself however you like on your own site to be chipped away.

MONEY HONEY

ICM stands to make a lot of money from these registrations, which are going for a whopping 60 dollars each (dot-coms cost around ten dollars), six times what one pays for a dot-com. BusinessWeek reports that according to CEO Stuart Lawley, ICM is positioned to bring in 200 million dollars a year in dot-xxx registrations.

At ZDNet, Violet Blue writes, “ICM is bragging to have sold over a quarter million pre-registrations… that’s a current total of $20,159,100 in pre-sales.”

It’s tempting to conclude that pre-registration means that the adult industry and content producers aren’t worried about repercussions of a dot-xxx top level domain and may, in fact, support the existence of it. ICM has occasionally implied this to be the case. Unfortunately, this is not the correct assumption. As Hustler founder Larry Flynt writes:

The vast majority of people in our industry who have registered domains through ICM have done so as a defensive action to protect their brands and their traffic. Of course there are also opportunists looking to capitalize on the potential future value of certain domain names. Other than these two groups, I think you would be hard pressed to find people in our industry who have registered domain names through ICM because they believe in the concept. The adult industry has been hit hard by copyright infringement and the recession and especially now, we don’t need to spend money we don’t have on a product we don’t want.

Essentially, ICM is charging six times what other domains cost and businesses are being forced to buy these domains in order to protect their brand identities online. (It’s ironic that while trumpeting protection against copyright infringement and piracy, ICM is essentially terrorizing adult content producers into buying domains to protect their trademarks.)

Sixty a year for one site may not seem like a big deal, but many porn businesses manage more than a single site. To register several domains on top of those they already have just to protect their business identities is to effectively push out small porn producers who can’t afford the extra expense.

“If .xxx is only going to represent the big boys, then it in no way represents ‘the industry,’ which makes smaller, but still important sites, niches and micro-niches,” said Theresa Reed of Darklady Productions, Inc. on a thread in the adult industry board XBIZ.net.

In that thread, Stuart Lawley, CEO of ICM waved off her concerns by saying, “sorry if that price point is too high for you.” Clearly, the creation of this top level domain, which promises so much, is not for the small business owner.

Meanwhile, ICM will collect on the efforts of hundreds of thousands of adult content producers, without concern for their businesses or the potential of censorship or free speech rights violations.

MALWARE

Another thing ICM has promised is the assurance to consumers that dot-xxx sites will be free of scams or malware. Unfortunately, there is nothing in place to prevent anyone with a dot-xxx domain to scam or host malware, so the selling point that dot-xxx domains are free and trusted destinations is baseless.

Stuart Lawley himself, on the above-mentioned XBIZ thread discussing the dot-xxx domain with industry professionals agreed that adult websites are not in the majority as it regards malware, citing an Avast report as supporting evidence. He iterated that the idea was simply to provide “good housekeeping Seal of approval” to the general population who believe malware and scams are predominantly present in adult sites. This will be achieved with a “huge international multi-million dollar campaign” to promote dot-xxx.

As a starting venue for this epic promotional tour, Lawley suggested major sporting events. Because we all know these would be thrilled to have adult advertising and sponsorships. That’s sarcasm, by the way, in case you missed it. Anyone an iota of understanding of the adult industry knows how this plays out. That is: it won’t happen.

We don’t think Stuart Lawley is stupid, but we do wonder whether his lack of experience in the adult industry isn’t a huge liability. Comments like these are so naive, they don’t even qualify as pipe dreams.

THE MAN WHO WOULD BE “DOT-XXX KING”

Here’s what we know about Stuart Lawley, CEO of ICM. At 41, the Florida resident is among the top thousand richest Britons, having made a tidy sum during the first dot-com boom. Repeatedly, he has told the media that he has no link to the adult industry in any form. He doesn’t have to tell us twice: it shows.

ICM’s disregard for the opposition to dot-xxx among industry professionals and Lawley’s personal handling of dissenters suggest that they’re not really in it to give the adult industry or its consumers a digital “resort” destination or save the children. They’re there to cash in.

You can read the 127-page long exchange that went on between ICM and the adult industry, or you can simply enjoy this eight-minute video created by the adult industry. We’d call it a satire, except every line spewed by the actor playing Lawley was actually stated by the ICM CEO on the XBIZ message boards.

Yep, that’s the guy BusinessWeek declared “would be dot-xxx king,” the one to help the porn industry get ahead of the game.

The matter is fully and properly settled, indeed.

EPILOGUE

Based on our research, dot-xxx opens the door to censorship and freedom of speech violations around the world. The possibility that dot-xxx domains could become mandatory is real and the ambiguous nature of the phrase “sexually-oriented adult entertainment” makes us weary.

Glibly quoting Winston Churchill when posed with concerns about dot-xxx, Stuart Lawley said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Well, we would like to counter with one from Benjamin Franklin: “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

The security of being able to filter adult content – a false promise unless dot-xxx is mandatory – is not enough to give up our ability to express ourselves however we desire, whether this is through a business enterprise or for our personal entertainment on our privately owned domains.

But it’s done. Against the advise of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), ICANN approved dot-xxx as a top level domain. Many don’t care — and as long as it’s not mandatory, they won’t. But some are putting their heads together: ICANN’s bylaws, after all, do offer review procedures. We’ll keep our eye on this one.

AV Flox

Your humble editrix-in-command.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook

  • http://twitter.com/DASHWORLDS DASHWORLDS

    Whilst voluntary, the contentious XXX extension will have no affect on adult Dotcom websites; adult Dotcoms will remain unchanged. Furthermore, with so much adverse publicity – including threats by Governments to block XXX country by country – many will look to avoid the this webspace completely. For those compelled to reserve domains defensively, it’s likely that anonymity will be required as names get set as Unknown. The outcome? Perhaps a mass of “For Sale” signs by speculators looking to offload their XXX investments……So…forget about all those blocks…..the new XXX could well be the only place on the Internet (maybe in the entire universe as we know it) that’s 100% free of pornography.

    But on a more serious note, what ICANN has done here is to advance fragmentation of the Web and encourage people to find new ways of making the most of their surfing experience. The result is that Internet users are now bypassing ICANN to create their own unique, memorable and personalised range of brand new Dashcom Domains and TLDs, totally free.

    Sites such as Dashworlds.com now provide brand new Dashcom (not Dotcom) domain names. Dashcoms are addresses in format “music-com”, “stock-market”, “social-network” (and of course any XXX your heart might desire). Totally outside the realm and control of ICANN, Internet users can create any domain or TLD in any language, instantly and at no cost.

    With users and members in over 90 countries worldwide, resolution is via an APP; although new ISP Links are available to make this unnecessary (ISP Links that are also available to ICANN).

    Having just one Internet floating in infinite cyberspace is like claiming you can comfortably visit all America by living on Brooklyn Bridge. So now, just as in America (and everywhere else in the world) the Internet has more than one option

Facebook

Add our page on Google+!

Keep up with everything we're covering right in your stream. Please note this page is limited to users 18+.

Featured

Gamers Won’t Be Seduced, Will Stare At Random Cleav Instead

That Steam allows the objectification and sexualization of female characters in a variety of its games but refuses to accept a game about actually engaging with women in a more interactive fashion is astonishingly backward.

FetLife Is Not Safe for Users

That the site doesn’t take measures to protect user content and has shown incompetence or negligence in regard to user privacy, all the while prohibiting victims from warning others about predatory behavior creates an environment where it is nearly impossible for members of the community to take care of themselves and one another. By enabling FetLife to continue espousing a code of silence, allowing the spinning self-created security issues as “attacks,” and not pointing out how disingenuous FetLife statements about safety are, we are allowing our community to become a breeding ground for exploitation.

Why You Should Vote No On Prop 35

Should people who benefit (parents, siblings, children, roommates!) from the earnings of “commercial sex acts” (any sexual conduct connected to the giving or receiving of something of value) be charged with human trafficking? Should someone who creates obscene material that is deemed “deviant” be charged as with human trafficking? Should someone who profits from obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should people transporting obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should a person who engages in sex with someone claiming to be above the age of consent or furnishing a fake ID to this effect be charged with human trafficking? What if I told you the sentences for that kind of conviction were eight, 14 or 20 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $500,000, and life as a registered sex offender?

Pretty and Calls Herself a Geek? Attention Whore!

If you are a woman, you might be given a chance to prove yourself in this community. Since there is no standard definition of what a “geek” is and it will vary from one judge to the next anyway, chances of failing are high (cake and grief counseling will be available after the conclusion of the test!). If you somehow manage to succeed, you’ll be tested again and again by anyone who encounters you until you manage to establish yourself like, say, Felicia Day. But even then, you’ll be questioned. As a woman, your whole existence within the geek community will be nothing but a series of tests — if you’re lucky. If you aren’t lucky, you’ll be harassed and threatened and those within the culture will tacitly agree that you deserve it.

Cuddle Chemical? Moral Molecule? Not So Fast

Zak’s original field, it turns out, is economics, a far cry from the hearts and teddy bears we imagine when we consider his nickname. But after performing experiments on generosity, Zak stumbled on the importance of trust in interactions, which led him, rather inevitably, to research about oxytocin. Oxytocin, you might remember, is a hormone that has been linked previously to bonding — between mothers and children primarily, but also between partners. What Zak has done is take the research a step further, arguing in his recent book, The Moral Molecule, that oxytocin plays a role in determining whether we are good or evil.

How to Avoid Pissing off a Stripper

Let’s talk about the strippers. Whether they like to be half-naked or not, whether they enjoy turning you on or not, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re working. Whether you think that taking one’s clothes off for money is a great choice of career is really beside the point (is it a possibility for you to make $500 per hour at your job without a law degree? Just asking). These women are providing fantasy, yes, but that is their job. And as a patron of the establishment where they work, you need to treat them like you would anyone else who provides a service to you.

Masthead

Send us news!

Editrix-in-Command:
AV Flox

In-House Theologian:
Robert Fischer

Eros and Desire Scholar:
Dawn Kaczmar

Scientific Consultant:
Jason Goldman

East Coast Liaison:
Jackie Summers

Arch-Nemesis:
Barbie Davenporte

Read about the contributors we've had over time on our staff page.

Follow SAT405 on:
Twitter
Facebook

RSS

Hosted by (mt)

About

Sex and the 405 is what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.

Here you’ll find news about the latest research being conducted to figure out what drives desire, passion, and other sex habits; reviews of sex toys, porn and other sexy things; coverage of the latest sex-related news that have our mainstream media's panties up in a bunch; human interest pieces about sex and desire; interviews with people who love sex, or hate sex, or work in sex, or work to enable you to have better sex; opinion pieces that relate to sex and society; and the sex-related side of celebrity gossip. More...