When I read* the piece “The End User: Adults only? Not so fast”, published on March 30, 2006, I was tempted to respond at the IHT Digital Dialogue blog. I did that, but later, thinking again about the article, I concluded it’s difficult to explain all the problems around the proposed Internet top-level domain (TLD) “.xxx” on a blog comment.
I think it’s not a bad idea to try to put all the pornographic content into the “.xxx” space.
Whether that will be achievable is a different question. But if we don’t try today, our kids will ask us in 10 years, “So, what did you do to solve this problem?” To which, if we don’t act now, we’ll have to admit, “Nothing.” I don’t know if the “.xxx” will work to the extent the companies supporting it, want it to work. But I know personally many of the people who believe that the creation of this TLD is good, e.g. Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredKids.org and WiredSafety.org, and author of “A Parents’ Guide to the Internet…and how to protect your children in cyberspace”. I also know that the registry behind the .xxx, ICM, is willing to spend a certain amount of money from the registration for a real work among kids, in order to ensure their protection from indecent and harmful content (whether that will be with a foundation, or some other way – the important way is, they have that in plan).
Some say “.xxx” is actually promoting pornographic content on the Internet, but there are many responses to that: This content is already on line, and the critics of “.xxx” are not doing anything about it. What’s considered as erotic content in some cultures, would be considered pornographic in others. So, how to solve this problem?
The xxx content exists today everywhere, and not only on the Internet. One can walk the streets of major European or US cities, and find it on every newsstand, or find even “live content” in some districts. Similar situation is in many other countries, and in some others it’s even worse. How to solve this problem?
The society doesn’t do anything about these problems, but now it says that the questionable Internet content cannot and will not be controlled by such top-level domains?! Why not give the “.xxx” a chance to put some order?
If it is a problem for many countries, they all need to search for a solution. The society should not just stay and watch how the Internet is turning into a source for indecent and harmful content – and that’s without the “.xxx”. Parents should also protect their children.
There are certain things everyone can do. For example, the Bulgarian Internet Society has joined a dozen non-profit organizations in Bulgaria to create a public council for fighting illegal and harmful content on the Internet. A hot line will be announced on a special meeting at the Bulgarian Parliament next week, and it’s already on line at www.web112.net. Is it enough? No. But at least it’s a step forward. However, it must be noted that not all adult content is illegal or harmful, and “.xxx” is not necessarily always equal to “illegal or harmful”.
Some people say, “Forget the “.xxx”, let’s create “.kids” – another idea for putting content for the kids on the right place.
Creating new TLDs is part of the work of ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. If from the discussion whether it’s good or bad to have “.xxx” someone comes with a serious proposal to have another new TLD – that still will be something. However, we have to be aware, that the creation of “.kids” has also some problems – e.g. according to the Center for Democracy & Technology it may “provide a tempting place for predators to identify and contact children on line”. Finding a solution is a difficult task, esp. considering that same arguments as for the “.xxx” are valid here – different cultures have different views of what’s appropriate for “kids”, and “.kids” is a global top level domain.
We all – Internet users, parents, journalists, experts, have to start talking about creation of new TLDs, and see which one will be successful. In the “.com” all major domain names are already registered. Some countries like Germany, England, Netherlands and others prefer to develop their own country-code TLDs, and that’s a good alternative. The USA is quite behind there, in using “.us”.
A new time begins on the Internet – when a number of new top level domains should be created. We all need a serious discussion on this subject. At its last meeting on March 31st, 2006 in Wellington, New Zealand, ICANN decided to have a process in place for new names even if it was not ready to initiate a request for proposals by Jan 2007. Now, it’s up to the Internet community to move the process forward.
* – Note: The views expressed in the article do not reflect positions of ICANN, ISOC or any other organizations Mr. Markovski is related with. It is just a response to an article, and does not presume positions of Mr. Markovski on the issue of approval or disapproval of the new top level domain (ed. rem.)