ICANN to vote Friday on .xxx domain

The Internet regulation body ICANN is preparing to vote Friday on whether to create a .xxx domain exclusively for Internet pornography

Faced with an outcry against the creation of a dedicated ".xxx" suffix for pornography Web sites, leaders of ICANN are set to vote Friday on whether to launch the initiative.

Supporters say adult content would be easier to regulate if it had its own cordoned section of the Web. But critics including religious leaders say the move could make adult content too easy to find, while others complain that increased filtering could harm the sites' right to freedom of speech.

"This clearly is a controversial issue, and an issue that polarizes, and that conflict is mirrored on the board," said Paul Twomey, chief executive of ICANN, the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers. He spoke during a conference call with reporters Monday at the beginning of a meeting of the regulatory body held in Lisbon, Portugal.

"We are still actively seeking input on the issue, and the degree of feedback we've received has been vigorous, with the overwhelming amount of public feedback on the negative rather than the positive. I can't tell you what the outcome will be because I don't know," he said.

The ICANN board will consider many other issues this week, such as how Internet service providers could have better reacted to a root server attack on February 6 and how to handle two-letter domain codes for countries that no longer exist, like Yugoslavia (.yu) and the Soviet Union (.su). The board will also tackle whether to maintain English as the default language for Web addresses, and ICANN's legal options in terminating the accreditation of RegisterFly.com Inc., a Web domain registrar with a history of customer service complaints.

ICANN is pushing RegisterFly to avoid a new round of conflict resolution talks, and instead submit to ICANN's demands to send a bulk transfer of its users' data to an accredited registrar. If it does not, then ICANN could ask a court to force the transfer.

The owners of RegisterFly, in West Orange, New Jersey, are fighting each other for the company in court, ICANN says. In the meantime, customers have reported that their domain names expire prematurely or are impossible to renew. The owners met with ICANN in December, but refused to share their customers' registration data. So ICANN has begun the process of ending RegisterFly's accreditation, the group says.

RegisterFly did not respond to requests for comment.

The incident could push ICANN to change the way it screens registrars, said Twomey. The group is currently evolving from the monopoly held by the original registrar, Network Solutions, to a market filled with many competing registrars. ICANN today lists about 860 registrars for 80 million Web site registrants.

"Microsoft requires you to pass tests before you sell their software, but we don't require you to have any accredited skill set to become a registrar. Perhaps that's something we need to address," Twomey said.

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Ben Ames

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