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Internet body postpones decision on sex domain

August 17, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The group that oversees Internet
domain names said on Wednesday it had postponed a decision to
set up a special .xxx domain for sex sites that has drawn
opposition from conservative activists.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or
ICANN, was scheduled to hear the proposal on Tuesday but
postponed its decision until September 15 after the U.S.
Commerce Department asked for more time to hear objections.

In a letter dated August 11, the Commerce Department said
it had received nearly 6,000 letters and e-mails from people
who are concerned that it would make life easier for the online
sex industry.

An internal ICANN group that represents the United States
and other governments also asked for more time for public
input. The group did not say which governments had objected to
the domain.

ICANN announced in June that it would move ahead with plans
to evaluate the domain, pitched by ICM Registry Inc., a private
company which is proposing to run the domain as a sort of
online red-light district that would enable people to easily
find porn or filter it out.

“.XXX was deferred in response to requests from the
applicant ICM, as well as ICANN Government Advisory Committee
Chairman’s and the US Department of Commerce’s request to allow
for additional time for comments by interested parties,” ICANN
said in a statement.

Efforts to ban or segregate online pornography have failed
in the United States for years on free-speech grounds.

ICANN in the past has resisted congressional attempts to
set up a domain for sex sites on the grounds that it doesn’t
want to regulate online content.

Sex sites wouldn’t be required to sign up for .xxx
addresses but allowing ICM to handle the domain would sidestep
those issues, an ICANN spokesman said in June.

That didn’t sit well with conservative activists who worry
that a .xxx domain will further legitimize the porn industry
and won’t make it easier to avoid sexual content online.

The Family Research Council, a conservative group, has
urged its members to contact the Commerce Department and ICANN,
and a Web site called ConservativePetitions.com says it has
gathered 1,867 signatures opposing the .xxx domain.

In its letter to ICANN, the Commerce Department said it had
received an “unprecedented” volume of correspondence on the
issue.

A lawyer who has helped ICM through the application process
was not immediately available for comment.




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