XXX Domains: RIP

by Larry Magid

Unlike some of my fellow Internet safety activists, I think that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers did the right thing by rejecting the proposed .XXX top level domain designation. See Story

For the record, in addition to my work as technology commentator, I run SafeKids.com and Safeteens.com and am co-director of BlogSafety.com.

Despite years of advocacy on the part of its sponsors, I remain unconvinced that that the .XXX top level domain would have furthered the causes of child protection or free speech. It might have been effective had it been mandatory for all porn sites, but that would have brought up enormous free speech issues that many of us would not fathom. Because it would have been voluntary, there would continue to be porn sites with .com TLDs, possibly giving parents a false sense of security by believing that all porn was walled off. I don’t agree with those who say it would have promoted porn nor do I fully agree with those who fear that such a voluntary process would have been a likely first step towards government regulation. I do, however, understand why some adult site operators and civil libertarians would worry about that, especially if the voluntary xxx didn’t cut back significantly on the use of .com for porn site.

Also, the .XXX issue begged the question of user-supplied content on the Web on social networking sites as well as the risks of cyberbullying, self-destructive behavior and inappropriate contact between children and adults.

Having said that, I still think that all sites, including adult sites, should self-label by using the ICRA ratings that are available through the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI.ORG). Unlike registering for a .XXX domain, setting up an ICRA label is free. All websites that supported the .XXX proposal should now take the next step of registering if they haven’t already done so. Disclosure: I am an unpaid member of the FOSI Advisory board.

Finally, it’s an opportunity for all of us who care about Internet safety to remind parents that parental involvement and education can go a long way towards keeping our kids safe on the Internet.

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