CEN­SOR­SHIP

Rather than clar­i­fy­ing the is­sue of in­ter­net cen­sor­ship, the highly sought new . xxx ad­dress is in­cit­ing mixed re­ac­tions, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley- Nicholson

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

Triple X marks the new in­ter­net spot.

THE world wide web is about to get a red- light district. Af­ter more than a decade of de­bate, re­jec­tions and le­gal chal­lenges, the in­ter­net’s gov­ern­ing body be­gan ac­cept­ing ap­pli­ca­tions last week for . xxx web­sites from the adult en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

The so- called ‘‘ lan­drush’’ phase sig­ni­fies the true launch of . xxx web­sites, which are de­signed to pro­vide more trans­parency around in­ter­net pornog­ra­phy.

But while its spon­sor de­scribes the new adult ad­dresses as re­spon­si­ble ‘‘ sign­posts’’ for porno­graphic ma­te­rial that let web surfers make in­formed de­ci­sions, ex­perts have slammed the scheme as a money- grab that has been ‘‘ grossly over­sold’’ as a way to block porn and pro­tect chil­dren.

Com­pany ICM Registry first pro­posed the . xxx do­main in 2000, as well as . kids web­site ad­dresses, though the In­ter­net Cor­po­ra­tion for As­signed Names and Numbers ( ICANN) re­jected both ideas.

ICM had its . xxx ap­pli­ca­tion re­viewed, how­ever, and in 2004 changed the pro­posal to a spon­sored top- level do­main over­seen by a ded­i­cated or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Af­ter a string of re­jec­tions and un­prece­dented pub­lic com­ment, the scheme was ap­proved on March 31 this year.

ICM Registry be­gan ac­cept­ing . xxx ap­pli­ca­tions from trade­marked com­pa­nies – those look­ing to use a . xxx ad­dress and those seek­ing to pre­vent their com­pany from ap­pear­ing on a . xxx web­site – on Septem­ber 7.

More than 80,000 ap­pli­ca­tions swamped the com­pany dur­ing the 53- day win­dow, a re­sult that chief ex­ec­u­tive Stu­art Law­ley says is un­prece­dented.

‘‘ There is al­ways a risk with a new top- level do­main that you may build it and no­body will come,’’ he says.

‘‘ The . xxx sun­rise pe­riod re­sults far ex­ceed those of any other new [ spon­sored top- level] do­mains, in­clud­ing . mobi, . asia and even that of . co that re­launched last year.’’

Adult en­ter­tain­ment pro­duc­ers

It’s not go­ing to work be­cause we don’t all agree on what is porn, and that’s a huge is­sue

with­out trade­marks can ap­ply for . xxx web­site names for the next few days, with gen­eral avail­abil­ity fol­low­ing on De­cem­ber 6.

But Univer­sity of Can­berra in­for­ma­tion law lec­turer Bruce Arnold says while the idea be­hind the new do­main name has merit, the scheme will not see all adult ma­te­rial moved into a makeshift web ghetto as cen­sor­ship ad­vo­cates want.

Mov­ing adult ma­te­rial to a . xxx web­site is vol­un­tary, he says, and in­ter­na­tional bod­ies could never agree on what ma­te­rial should be clas­si­fied as ‘‘ adult’’ or ‘‘ of­fen­sive’’.

‘‘ It’s not go­ing to work be­cause we don’t all agree on what is porn, and that’s a huge is­sue,’’ Arnold says. ‘‘ Peo­ple dis­agree pas­sion­ately about what is sen­si­tive ma­te­rial and what’s not.

‘‘ In Aus­tralia if you watch tele­vi­sion at 8pm you’ll see peo­ple who aren’t wear­ing much cloth­ing or per­haps any cloth­ing.

‘‘ Some peo­ple in the US would say that any same- sex ac­tiv­ity is pro­foundly ob­scene. These is­sues are im­pos­si­ble to re­solve.’’

Arnold says the . xxx scheme will also fail to work as a tech­ni­cal so­lu­tion to a hu­man be­havioural prob­lem. Par­ents, guardians and search en­gines will not sim­ply be able to fil­ter out . xxx web­sites, and some porn pro­duc­ers will con­tinue to host ma­te­rial on . com sites or in other coun­tries.

‘‘ The idea that we can come up with a quick fix to this prob­lem is fun­da­men­tally flawed,’’ he says.

‘‘ If we’re con­cerned about pro­tect­ing chil­dren from of­fen­sive con­tent online, some­times it is sim­ply a mat­ter of park­ing the fam­ily PC in the lounge when they’re young and teach­ing them.’’

But other stake­hold­ers dis­agree. Spokesman for civil lib­er­ties group Elec­tronic Fron­tiers Aus­tralia, Stephen Collins, says the or­gan­i­sa­tion sup­ports the in­tro­duc­tion of . xxx web­sites be­cause ‘‘ hav­ing it avail­able is go­ing to make web­site con­tent clear’’.

Fam­ily First leader Dennis Hood goes fur­ther, propos­ing that all porno­graphic ma­te­rial should be moved to a . xxx web­site.

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