XXX Internet

I doubt that it will make much difference, but the AP reports that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has approved a plan to create a “virtual red light district” on the Internet by assigning web addresses ending in .xxx to pornographic websites.

This action will make it very easy for individual computer users to use blocking software to keep children and others from visiting these sites. However, use of the .xxx designation is to be entirely voluntary, and it remains to be seen whether porn sites will choose to move to the “red light district” or prefer to remain more accessible. The AP article noted that John Morris, staff counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, “predicted some adult sites will choose to buy ‘xxx’ Web addresses but others will continue to use dot-com.”

The article did not entertain the question of whether governments will eventually require such sites to take .xxx addresses, but that would seem to be an obvious possibility. The U.S. Supreme Court might well find such a federal law to be constitutional, as not being a case of the Congress imposing censorship or prior restraint of protected communications and hence not a violation of First Amendment protections. The U.S. federal government would undoubtedly be able to claim that such a move was allowable under the Interstate Commerce Clause.

This will be an interesting debate to watch, should the move toward requiring the use of the .xxx designation come to pass.

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12 thoughts on “XXX Internet

  1. As far as forcing the suffix there’s also the issue of how nebulous any standard of pornography is. Undoubtedly there will be ten thousand sites that one person believes should be restricted to .xxx while another doesn’t. Not to mention how complex internet law is (technologically based international law anyone? Oh my).

    That having been said having the .xxx suffix as an option seems like a good idea. It would help with filtering as well as make explicit that any site using it is geared toward adults.

  2. Tlaloc is right about International law. Congress can posture and legislate all they want, but they have no control over sites outside of our borders.

  3. Anonymous: I understand your point, but it is important to recognize that Congress has the authority to, for example, put a huge, unbearable tariff on any foreign-based entity sending info into the United States over the internet, and can discriminate based on content if it so wishes (the First Amendment applies only to Americans). In addition, the technology to enforce such actions is in fact available. The idea that the internet is entirely unregulatable is an obsolete notion. I am certainly not suggesting that Congress should do such things, only that it can. Hence the question, I respectfully submit, is not whether a particular thing is possible but whether it is good.

    Given the potential of the federal government to become involved in this, my personal belief is that it would be in the pornography industry’s best interests to adopt the .xxx designation voluntarily. But people don’t always do what is in their best interests, or at least what I think are their best interests!—STK

  4. “but it is important to recognize that Congress has the authority to, for example, put a huge, unbearable tariff on any foreign-based entity sending info into the United States over the internet”

    How would they possibly do that?

    “In addition, the technology to enforce such actions is in fact available.”

    What technology is that? I’ve certainly never heard of a technology that would allow the US government to track all packet data, determine who was sending what to whom and send them a bill. And what would the government do is some Japanese teenager decides not to pay?

  5. You wouldn’t have to track all packet data. What the government does now in stopping crime would be the model: go after a few prominent cases and scare the rest away. That would be pretty simple to achieve, it appears to me. Perhaps ultimately it would not work, but I wouldn’t say it is at all beyond the realm of possibility, and I think it a very plausible scenario if Congress wished to try it. Hence, that is why I say it would be in the industry’s best interests to comply voluntarily.—STK

  6. I can’t speak to the actual mechanics of it, as I’m not an expert in Internet technology, but would simply point out that any entity has to have a home somewhere, and that in order to send out a large volume of materials such a company should ultimately be findable, I should think. That is by no means a technological impossibility (as governments’ efforts to apprehend those sending child pornography over the internet indicate), although it would probably be too expensive to do on a broad scale at this point. That is why I suggested that a skimming approach is most likely in the near future. In addition, it is by no means inconceivable that international law would eventually be amended to allow inter-government cooperation in these efforts–especially if certain carrots and sticks were put into place by the United States and other governments. But, yes, I have no conclusive proof that the U.S. government will be able to impose regulations on pornographers, so anyone who wants to believe that such regulation is impossible is perfectly welcome to do so. I wouldn’t advise anyone to rely for long on the notion that the internet is unregulatable, but I certainly recognize and concede that there are potential technical difficulties in doing so.—STK

  7. My argument is that a pornographer located in a foreign country could use a .com domain name and there would be nothing we could do about it. You’re suggesting tarrifs on their product, but recall that much Internet commerce is advertising based. I suspect that indeed a tarrif could be arranged via the credit card companies that people use to buy content (which I am sure Visa and Mastercard would just love) then direct payment could be taxed thusly. But to totally prevent companies in other countries from using the .com domain name for pornography? Without a world government, it’s impossible.

  8. I guess we have come a long way since the days of Ben Franklin hawking Porn Richard’s Almanac in unmarked brown paper packages.

  9. Anonymous: OK. I still disagree with the use of the word impossible to describe the situation, but, as stated several times before, I certainly agree that there are difficulties the government would have to overcome. I just think that where there is a will, there will turn out to be a way. Maybe you’re right. Maybe not. We’ll find out eventually.—STK

  10. Yes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. For example, China could easily do such a thing; they route all of their Internet traffic through a firewall. Yes, this would be a grave constitutional violation, but our administration sure doesn’t seem to care about that.

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