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.XXX Rejected by ICANN

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The ICANN board voted to reject the application for assignment of the .xxx top-level domain by a vote of 9 to 5, with 1 abstaining. Today’s decision brings to an end the current round of domain name proposals that began back in 2004.

Porn site owners will now be able to rest easy knowing that they won’t have to let go of their .com domains anytime soon. Likewise, opposition from the religious realm proclaims victory in their efforts to thwart the mainstream appeal of pornography across the Internet.

In the minutes from today’s ICANN meeting, the board outlines its rationale for rejecting the domain proposal:

  • ICM’s Application and the Revised Agreement fail to meet, among other things, the Sponsored Community criteria of the RFP specification.
  • Based on the extensive public comment and from the GAC’s communiqués that this agreement raises public policy issues.
  • Approval of the ICM Application and Revised Agreement is not appropriate as they do not resolve the issues raised in the GAC Communiqués, and ICM’s response does not address the GAC’s concern for offensive content, and similarly avoids the GAC’s concern for the protection of vulnerable members of the community. The Board does not believe these public policy concerns can be credibly resolved with the mechanisms proposed by the applicant.
  • The ICM Application raises significant law enforcement compliance issues because of countries’ varying laws relating to content and practices that define the nature of the application, therefore obligating ICANN to acquire a responsibility related to content and conduct.
  • The Board agrees with the reference in the GAC communiqué from Lisbon, that under the Revised Agreement, there are credible scenarios that lead to circumstances in which ICANN would be forced to assume an ongoing management and oversight role regarding Internet content, which is inconsistent with its technical mandate.

"This decision was the result of very careful scrutiny and consideration of all the arguments. That consideration has led a majority of the Board to believe that the proposal should be rejected,” said Dr. Vint Cerf, Chairman of ICANN.

With that brief statement, the debate over .xxx is finally put to rest.

Or is it?

Two ICANN board members have come out publicly against the decision to reject the .xxx top-level domain, alleging that the group’s decision stems from political pressures rather than established policies.

Susan Crawford had this to say about the extent of ICANN’s authority:

ICANN’s role in gTLD policy development is to seek to assess and articulate the broadly shared values of the internet community.  We have very limited authority and we can only speak on behalf of that community.  I am personally not aware that any global consensus against the creation of an .xxx domain exists.  In the absence of such a prohibition, and given our mandate to create TLD competition, we have no authority to block the addition of this TLD to the root.

Joi Ito gives his take:

ICANN should not be determining whether top level domains (TLDs) will solve the world’s problems or not. We were asked to review an application based on whether the application met the requirements of the Request for Proposal (RFP). My view is that the applicant met the requirements of the RFP and that not granting the applicant their request for the right to run the .xxx TLD is wrong.

It seems that, at least according to the board members who voted in support of the domain, all the sufficient criteria for inclusion were met, while those in opposition felt otherwise. There is speculation, however, that ICANN’s decision to reject the .xxx domain stems more from outside political pressure rather than the merits of the proposal alone.

Regardless, the issue is pretty much dead at this point. Those looking for more effective methods of blocking adult content will have to come up with a new plan. 

.XXX Rejected by ICANN
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