Vote on .xxx pushed back a month

Bowing to Bush administration pressure, the nonprofit group overseeing domain names delays a vote on a new suffix reserved for porn.

A final decision on the fate of the highly controversial .xxx domain, which was intended to be reserved for online pornography, will not happen until September.

The board of directors of the nonprofit group that oversees domain names said on Tuesday that it would delay a vote until its next meeting on Sept. 15. That decision follows last-minute opposition to the creation of .xxx from the Bush administration and other national governments. The vote was originally supposed to take place on Tuesday.

The move by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was expected after ICM Registry, the Florida company that plans to operate .xxx, agreed on Monday to a month's delay, saying the additional time would permit it to assuage concerns about the creation of a virtual red-light district.

John Jeffrey, ICANN's general counsel, said in an e-mail that ".xxx was deferred in response to requests from the applicant ICM, as well as ICANN Government Advisory Committee Chairman's and the U.S. Department of Commerce's request to allow for additional time for comments by interested parties."

In an unprecedented move in ICANN's seven-year history, the Bush administration intervened in the domain name creation process by sending a letter saying: "The Department of Commerce has received nearly 6,000 letters and e-mails from individuals expressing concern about the impact of pornography on families and children." ICANN had endorsed the concept of an .xxx domain in June and approval of ICM Registry's contract to run the suffix was expected to take place in a routine vote this week.

After ICANN's vote to approve .xxx, conservative groups in the United States called on their supporters to ask the Commerce Department to block the new suffix.

The Family Research Council, for instance, warned that "pornographers will be given even more opportunities to flood our homes, libraries and society with pornography through the .xxx domain." In an unusual twist, the American Civil Liberties Union has also raised concerns about .xxx, predicting that the new domain would create a near-irresistable temptation for governments to make it mandatory for pornographic sites.

Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi, chairman of ICANN's advisory committee of government officials, asked for a halt to .xxx in a letter last week. Tarmizi told CNET News.com that "I have not gotten a response from the Board as yet, nor do I expect one.

"I spoke to the board based on my observation of the recent meeting in Luxembourg that many governments are still grappling with the debates on this issue and although it is a long outstanding issue, in this regard, I felt that a little more time was warranted for views to be expressed, if any," said Tarmizi, an official on Malaysia's communications commission.

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