A Cyberspace Red-Light District?

by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca on June 29, 2010

It looks as if porn internet sites may soon operate in their own cyberspace red-light district. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a non-profit in charges of domain names and IP addresses, has decided to give porn sites their own suffix: dot-xxx. As in x-rated. The company which proposed the idea, ICM Registry, stands to make a bundle on the decision.

Considering that it charges $60-a-year per domain registration and has already received 100,000 pre-registrations (mostly, it seems, from companies anxious to hold onto their domain names), it should be rolling in the dough in nine to 12 months when the new suffix becomes official. There’s about 5 million porn sites on the net right now.

Not everyone is as thrilled about the decision as ICM is.

Diane Duke, who heads up the Free Speech Coalition, which represents more than 1,000 porn businesses (including Hustler and Adam and Eve), said that the board running the dot-xxx domain could put a damper on what her industry does. “If the board doesn’t like what a producer creates, there is the possibility that they could censor it. This will ghettoize our industry and make us a target of regulation.”

In a case of strange bedfellows, the move is also opposed by the religious right, but for completely different reasons, of course. Robert Peters, the head of Morality in Media, said that dot-xxx will not protect children from “online exposure to hardcore adult pornography.”

“First, the proposed system is voluntary, which means commercial pornographers will be able to maintain sites both within the .xxx domain and without, which would be to their advantage.”

An even stranger bedfellow is Andrew McWhinnie, a counselor who helps so-called sex addicts in Canada. “It’s saying: ‘If you want it, come here,’” he said. “Anything making it more accessible–which I think this does–damages the fabric of our society.”

People have been saying that porn “damages the fabric of our society” at least since the 50s when I grew up. They said the same thing about interracial marriage, homosexuality and women working outside the home. Not to mention the bikini, nudist camps and Allen Ginsberg’s poems.

The ghettoization of porn (and I do think it is ghettoization) could lead to a similar fate for gambling sites, or anything else a lot of people don’t like. Whether it ultimately curtails free speech or leads to unfair regulations remains to be seen.

For my money, I’d designate a special category for the dregs of humanity, and include Sunday morning TV ministers, anyone from the George Bush administration, and obnoxious dot-com billionaires running for California governor.

Certainly Sarah Palin would be a dot-bd for brain dead.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which has been nominated for both an American Library Association and a Lambda Literary award. His website is www.avicollimecca.com.

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