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ICANN rejects .xxx

Gets back into the content regulation business

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ICANN Lisbon In an unusual open board meeting today, ICANN once again rejected the establishment of a .xxx top level domain (TLD). The vote was 8-4 with a single abstention, that of CEO Paul Twomey.

The open meeting provided an opportunity to hear a debate that in the past had been conducted behind closed doors.

The debate seemed to follow attitudes hardened by years of politics surrounding the issuance of the domain. The debate raged largely around the phony issue of whether a .xxx domain would put ICANN in the content regulation business, when rejecting the domain is itself a content regulation decision.

Those opposed to the domain repeatedly issued proclamations about the supposed lack of proof that it would provide a "responsible" forum for adult entertainment.

The dissenters pointed out the ludicrous hypocrisy of this position, particularly in light of the fact that ICANN had previously approved the contract, and emphasised over the course of the week that promoting competition in the TLD business has become its central mission.

They said what ICANN really needs is a truly content-neutral TLD approval process, one with clear standards that apply equally for all TLD applicants. Standards such as meeting the technical and financial requirements, which are black and white and are not subject to political pressure from government or government-connected moralizers.

The opponents of .xxx went to great pains to emphasize that political pressure had nothing to do with their decision, although the only other rational explanation were the qualms board members felt over the concept of the .xxx domain - although they practically tripped over themselves claiming that they were voting to keep ICANN out of the content regulation business.

ICANN should only reject domains for moral reasons in the rare circumstance that they are universally opposed - that would truly promote competition in the TLD racket, and once and for all get ICANN out of the content regulation business. ®

Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office

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