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Internet

Red-light domain sought for porn

An influential Internet policy group is considering adding a ".xxx" domain, reserved solely for sites featuring pornographic content.

    An influential Internet policy group is considering adding a ".xxx" domain, which would be reserved solely for sites featuring pornographic content.

    The Generic Top-Level Domain Policy Oversight Committee has published a request for comments about the suggestion of creating a separate domain name for sex sites.

    The new domain name, which would be "the equivalent to a 'red-light zone'" on the Net, according to the committee, is suggested with the intent of making it easier for parents to keep children away from objectionable material.

    The suggested ".xxx" domain name is included in the request, along with ".firm," intended for businesses; ".store," for businesses offering goods for sale; ".web," for sites emphasizing Web-related activities; ".arts," for sites with cultural or entertainment activities; ".rec," for recreation sites; ".info," for information sites; and ".nom," for personal Web pages.

    The committee will be accepting comments on all of the suggested domain names through October 13.

    The ".xxx" domain isn't getting a strong show of support, either in or out of the committee. Dave Crocker, a consultant with Brandenberg Consulting and a member of the committee, was unenthusiastic about the utility of the suggested domain name.

    "It is unlikely that anyone will be able to write a correct law that forces me to adhere to the '.xxx' domain name," he said. "It's useful only as a marketing tool" for porn sites.

    Barry Steinhart, the associate director of the ACLU, finds the suggestion troubling for other, more ideological reasons.

    He worried that all sites of a sexual nature, like AIDS information sites, would be included under the new domain name. "All sexual speech will be lumped into the '.xxx' domain. There's a lot of people who object to speaking frankly about sex."

    Steinhart also raised questions about whether the government would be screening the sites, or whether it would be a self-selecting process. Either way, the ACLU fears the reprisals that would come from sites being accused of mislabeling.

    "We're concerned that this will become an overarching category to condemn all forms of speech with sexual content," Steinhart said.