Is .XXX Internet Censorship?
Adult content is under attack and even Google is getting in on the censorship with their new SafeSearch algorithm update that was deployed on Dec. 11th, 2012. Furthermore, Google has also banned the use of Webmaster Tools, Analytics or any other Google services with .xxx domains. It’s clear that this whole.xxx crap is just another form of internet censorship. The impact that these domains will have on search engines and porn SEO is yet to be determined, but it sure makes censoring the web a lot easier.
A Brief History of .XXX sTLD
The idea of a .xxx sponsored top-level domain (sTLD) for adult related sites has been around since 2000 when it was first proposed by ICM Registry to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). Not much came of this proposal and it was resubmitted in 2004. It came under almost immediate controversy and dissent from some unlikely forces, in particular, the largely Southern California-based adult video and DVD industry and those concerned with keeping net neutrality.
Rejecting Top Level Adult Domains
June of 2005 saw a preliminary approval of .xxx but it was taken off the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee agenda in December which placed its future in limbo. On May 10, 2006, ICANN reversed its prior approval for a .xxx sTLD. Early 2007 saw its resurgence when ICANN put up a revised proposal open to public comment but it was again rejected on March 30, 2007.
.XXX Rebirth & Approval
In June of 2008, ICM filed for an independent review of the ICANN decision and was granted a live hearing in September of 2009. ICANNs Independent Review Panel issued its decision on February 19, 2010. Their findings were that .xxx sTLD met the required sponsorship criteria. This decision fast-tracked making .xxx a soon-to-be future reality but required ICM to restart the process. Finally, on March 18, 2011, ICANNs board approved the registry agreement with ICM for .xxx as an sTLD. The board voted 9 in favor, 4 against and 3 in absentia.
Adult Domain Names Now Available
General Availability of .xxx domains went live on December 6, 2011, after a pre-sale period of domains for registered trademark owners and persons already with established domains who wished to purchase the matching .xxx sTLD. ICM is expected to make over $200 million USD a year selling .xxx domains.
Critics of .xxx helped stave off the inevitable approval of it for over a decade. Many argued that passing .xxx as an adults-only domain would have negative effects on net neutrality and that it would be only a matter of time before politicians and concerned citizen groups would be demanding that all adult related material be subjected and pushed into the dark corner of the .xxx world. This would be a near death blow to net neutrality and set precedents for future segregation and censorship.
Those who feared this appear to be right. Shortly after the first ICANN rejection in 2000, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan) wanted to know why ICANN was against a means of protecting our kids from awful, awful filth which is sometimes widespread on the Internet. This was quickly followed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) who felt that adult sites should abide by the same standard as the proprietor of an X-rated movie theater. Should mindsets like this win over the masses or pass laws it would be relatively simple for an internet provider to simply block all domains with the .xxx suffix by simply not allowing persons on their network to view these sites. No could argue that this is not a form of internet censorship.
Surprisingly the adult internet, video and DVD companies came out strongly against the idea of a .xxx sTLD. In November of 2011, Manwin, the parent company of Brazzers.com, and one of the largest and most popular adult sites in the world has filed a lawsuit against ICM and ICANN for antitrust violations. Managing partner of Manwin, Fabian Thylmann says, This is a monumental case impacting the entire business community and the Internet ecosystem. It uncovers a pernicious monopoly at the very heart of the Internet. Ending anticompetitive practices by ICM and ICANN will not only protect the business but help other companies compelled to pay a fee to keep their names unassociated with a.XXX designation.
Thylmann believes that by creating the .xxx sTLD individuals and companies will be forced to by the .xxx domain as a defensive measure to prevent squatters from registering their trade names and domains with the .xxx suffix. ICMs .xxx fee is $99.99 USD per year via GoDaddy.com and 60 plus other accredited registrars are listed on the ICM web page which may offer similar or more expensive pricing. This fee is roughly ten times the amount of a standard .com registration.
Manwin further showed their distaste for .xxx by issuing a statement on December 2, 2011, stating that they would not be engaging or doing business with internet sites registered with a .xxx domain. The lawsuit was just the beginning. Through this ban, we hope to make a strong statement against the.XXX domain said Thylmann.
Another opponent to .xxx is the Free Speech Coalition (FSC). They are a lobbying organization primarily compromised of adult industry members and lawyers. In October of 2011, they issued a PDF titled Adult Business Guide to.XXXBuyer Beware. This 12-page document is packed with information and provides some useful information. It points out that .xxx is likely to fail like many other sTLDs that were approved, but never saw much success including:
- .mobi (to an extent, this is slowly catching on)
Another point in the pamphlet suggests that many countries made it clear to ICANN that they would block any .xxx site. Your site would literally be blacklisted in a country that chooses not to allow access to .xxx sites regardless of content. They also go into great detail about the ins-and-outs of why they oppose .xxx.
Their PDF explains in detail:
- IFFOR (International Foundation for Online Responsibility) This is a non-profit entity set up by ICM Registry to govern the .xxx platform. ICM Registry selected IFFORs board members and placed itself and key ICM Registry executives in the leadership position.
- Why you should choose not to participate in .xxx.
- Prices to register a .xxx domain from different registrars.
Who’s Buying .XXX Domains?
What Does the Future Hold for .XXX?
While the future success or failure of .xxx is still yet to be decided, there is a compelling argument to be made and evidence suggests that perhaps the need for a new sTLD that took over 10 years (and a rumored $12 million USD) to finally become a reality was never really needed or wanted in the first place.
Questions to Consider
- Are you opening up the door to let non-adult friendly entities tell you where you can and cannot host your site in cyberspace?
- Will .xxx really help parents and teachers protect children from adult related material?
- Are you supporting Internet censorship when other countries have stated they will block .xxx sites?
- Will .xxx ever be embraced and enforced worldwide? Or will sites still be able to register adult sites as .com, .net or .org