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Official FSC Position on .XXX
In 2004, after several membership and Board meetings, the Board of Directors of The Free Speech Coalition voted to formally oppose the creation of an adult TLD, a position it maintains to this day. The Free Speech Coalition opposes .XXX because:
- .XXX Will Not Create a Framework to Protect Children – Even its most enthusiastic supporters acknowledge that a voluntary .XXX will not provide an effective mechanism for keeping adult content away from minors.
- There Is No Compelling Need For .XXX – Other than financial benefit to ICM Registry and its investors, there is no compelling need or business model that necessitates the creation of .XXX.
- .XXX Will Lead To The “Ghettoization” of Protected Speech – By its very existence, .XXX will segregate content-based speech and create a framework that could lead easily to government or private sector censorship, establishing an international precedent by which other content-based speech could be similarly segregated and regulated.
- .XXX Will be Regulated, Not Self-Regulated – A supporting organization, IFFOR, will set all policies that .XXX domain holders will be required to obey. A majority of IFFOR Board of Directors will come from outside the industry, thus creating a regulatory, rather than self-regulatory, framework.
- .XXX Does Not Have The Support of the Adult Industry – Contrary to statements made by ICM Registry and others, the overwhelming majority of adult entertainment companies do not support the creation of .XXX.
- .KIDS Would Provide a Far More Effective Solution – Instead of herding protected speech into a “virtual ghetto,” a content-positive .KIDS TLD should be created where children can find child-friendly websites, making it far easier for parents to filter .KIDS in than it will be for them to filter adult content out!
- Foreign Governments Oppose .XXX – An increasing number of foreign governments have voiced their opposition to .XXX. In fact, rather than endorsing .XXX, the European Union recently proposed the creation of a .kids top-level domain.
- Repressive Governments Will Engage in State-Sponsored Filtering: Many governments currently restrict the types of websites available to their citizens by utilizing filtering technologies. .XXX will provide these governments with yet another, more effective tool to control what their citizens can access, in effect, censoring speech for an entire country.
A Brief History of .XXX
On June 1, 2005, The Internet Corporation for Assigned names and Numbers (ICANN) announced that it had provisionally approved the creation of a .XXX top-level domain (TLD), beginning what was expected to be the final phase of a process that began in 2000, when Jason Hendeles of ICM Registry first submitted an application to create and control an adult TLD. That first application was not accepted by ICANN, but in 2004, Hendeles, with a new business plan and a new partner, Stuart Lawley, tried again, and this time they got the approval of ICANN, subject to contractual requirements.
There were two main differences between the 2000 and 2004 applications submitted to ICANN by ICM Registry. First, the 2004 application, unlike the 2000 version, was for a sponsored top-level domain, which required ICM Registry establish significant support within the industry for the creation of .XXX. Second, unlike 2000, the 2004 application proposed a supporting non-profit organization, The International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR), which would be responsible for setting all policies for .XXX domains, and administered by a seven-member Board of Directors comprised of people from within and without the adult industry. According to an IFFOR organizational chart, one seat would be reserved for a representative from the adult industry; the rest would be reserved for representatives of various stakeholder groups.
A contract codifying the agreement between ICANN and ICM Registry was prepared, and was to be signed by both parties in mid-August, 2005. According to a timetable contained in the contract, .XXX domains would be available for registration six months from the signing of the contract, or February 2006. The signing of the contract did not take place.
On August 11, 2005, Michael D. Gallagher, Assistant Secretary for the Commerce Department, wrote a letter to Dr. Vinton Cerf of ICANN, informing him that Commerce had received 6000 letter and emails from people objecting to .XXX, mostly the result of Christian conservative letter-writing campaigns. He urged the Board to “ensure that the concerns of all members of the Internet community on this issue have been adequately heard and resolved,” and suggested that additional time be allocated so that concerns could be voiced and addressed.
On August 12, 2005, Mohd Sharil Tarmizi, the chairman of ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee (GAC), a supporting group whose key role is to provide advice to ICANN on issues of public policy, sent a letter to the ICANN Board of Directors in which he stated that “…there remains a strong sense of discomfort in the GAC about the TLD, notwithstanding the explanations to date,” and suggested that final approval be delayed until “additional governmental and public policy concerns” could be addressed.
On August 15, Stuart Lawley of ICM Registry wrote a letter to Dr. Paul Twomey, CEO of ICANN, in which he acknowledge the concerns expressed by Gallagher and Tarmizi, and agreed to a one month extension until the September 15 Board meeting.
On August 16, 2005, ICANN deferred a decision on .XXX to its September 15 meeting.
On August 30, 2005, Free Speech Coalition Executive Director, Michelle L. Freridge, wrote a letter to ICANN Board Chair Vinton Cerf, reiterating FSC’s objection to .XXX and the ICM Registry application in particular. Though Dr. Cerf acknowledged receipt of the communication and promised to post it to the ICANN Correspondence page right away, it was in fact not posted there until sometime in March of 2006.
A special meetingof the ICANN Board September 15, 2005, resulted in the decision to enter into a review of the .XXX agreement. That decision was made, according to a preliminary report of the meeting, for several reasons, including the Board’s "concerns regarding issues relating to the compliance with the proposed .XXX Registry Agreement (including possible proposals for codes of conduct and ongoing obligations regarding potential changes in ownership.)" The Board votes to reconsider the .XXX application at the December 4 Board Meeting in Vancouver.
On September 16, 2005, Peter Zangle, Deputy Executive Director of the European Commission, wrote a letter to ICANN Board Chair Vinton Cerf outlining several problems the EU had with the decision to move forward with the ICM application, specifically mentioning certain "public policy issues" as well as the apparently unprecedented decision by the Board to move forward with the application before the publication of the .XXX appllication evalutation report. He asked ICANN to reconsider the deicision until GAC had been given an opportunity to review and comment on the report.
On November 23, 2005, Sweden expressed its concern regarding the .XXX application in a letter to Dr. Twomy, who replied the same day.
On November 28, 2005, ICANN posted the Evaluation Reports and supporting documentation for all the sTLD under consideration, including the .XXX TLD, which gained approval from the independent evaluators regarding the Technical and Business/Financial criteria, but not was not approved with respect to the Sponsorship and Other Issues criteria. The evaluators for that area proposed that ICANN "not consider" the application further.
A final decision on .XXX was postponed once again at the December 2005 Vancouver Meeting, as reflected in the GAC Communique from that meeting, "until such time as the GAC has been able to review the Evaluation Report and the additional information requested from ICANN." The "additional information" was apparently requested during meetings between GAC and the ICANN Board Tuesday, November 29, 2005.
On February 11, 2006, Dr. Twomey responded to GAC’s .XXX concerns in a letter outlining ICANN’s response to .XXX concerns over the past several months, and states no deadline by which GAC must respond.
The next few months saw the .XXX application "punted" from one meeting to the next, as GAC continued to assess the Evaluation Reports, and letters from various governments, including the European Union and the U.S. Commerce Department, and adult entertainment companies, expressed either specific concerns or outright opposition to .XXX.
The Board meeting in Wellington, New Zealand, convened on March 25, lasting until March 31. The Free Speech Coalition sent Communication Director Tom Hymes to the meeting, where he would represent the .XXX position of FSC along with Fiona Patten of the Eros Foundation of Australia. It was immediately made clear in Wellington that the ICANN Board would once again ndefer a final decision on .XXX, even though it was on the agenda. The main reasons have to do with a clear message from GAC members that the current Agreement between ICM and ICANN does not answer their specific concerns. This point of view is made most clear in the official GAC Comminuque out of Wellington, in which GAC outlines several specific provisions it wants to see in the Agreement.
On April 18, 2006, ICM Registry submited a revised proposed .XXX Agreement, with new language that claims to answer all the concerns expressed by GAC and individual country members. At the same time, a new public Comment Period commenced. Hundreds of people and companies posted to the ICANN site, the vast majority from the adult entertainment industry, and the vast majority of those emails in opposition to .XXX.
In early May, there were a serious of emails between GAC Chairman Tarmizi and ICANN, outlining the continued tug of war over language in the .XXX Agreement, GAC’s role in the outcome, and ICANN’s receptiveness to GAC positions. In a May 8 posting, ICANN states that the revised agreement answers the prevailing concerns, and that the Board will once again consider the ICM application at a May 10 meeting.
At the May 10, 2006 meeting, the ICANN Board votes to reject the ICM Registry .XXX application. The vote was 9-5.
Over the next several weeks, ICM Registry attempted to resurrect the .XXX application by filing a review request with ICANN and by filing a foia request with, and then lawsuit against, the U.S. Commerce Department, attempting to procure unredacted documents that they say prove undue U.S. Government influence in the ICANN decision. On May 29, 2006, Mamorial Day, ICM also began taking pre-registration orders for .XXX domains.
Related .XXX Links
Adult-Related TLDs Considered Dangerous
Technology Liberation Front
Family Research Council opposes .XXX domain (June 3, 2005)
CANN’t Keep .XXX Voluntary or ICANN’s Dilemma by Reed Lee
Letter from Larry Flynt Opposing .XXX TLD.