By John C. Dvorak
In a column I wrote in the 1990s, I proposed the creation of an .xxx top-level domain to make it easier to prevent what I then described as a porn storm. These were onerous self-spawning pornography page attacks that took place on the desktops of unsuspecting users. This phenomenon evolved into the "pop-ups" that we still see today and is essentially driven by a flaw in the design of browsers. Since most of these storms were created by porn sites, it seemed as if the easiest way to control them would be to create an .xxx domain for porn and filter the storms out unless you actually wanted to see them.
I harped on this topic on and off for a decade, and it was finally going to happen when, in a surprise move last week, Vint Cerf removed the initiative from the agenda of an ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) board meeting. It appears that a mere 6,000 canned letters sent to the Commerce Dept. did the trick. These apparently stemmed from a cell of evangelical organizations. That's all it took.
If ICANN cannot resist pressure from clichéd theopolitical zealots, then the chances of the organization maintaining control of the Internet—instead of handing control over to an international consortium of United Nations connivers—is nil. This episode marks the beginning of the end for the Internet. It does not bode well for ICANN, an organization that I supported until now.
The group making the most noise about the .xxx domain is a classic checklist-following evangelical group called Concerned Women for America. Its members follow the exact cookie-cutter Jerry Falwell theology promoted by many of these groups. Everything on the group's Web site is in red, white, and blue. Typical articles found at the site might be about the dangers of birth control, how gay marriage is bad, how evolution is just an unproven theory, how stem cell research is bad, and why we should have prayer in school. Mixed in with these are essays attacking the American court system and attempting to equate abortion with homosexuality.
Exactly how these folks became enamored of resisting the .xxx domain is somewhat mysterious, and I suspect the pornographers themselves are behind it. These women have been tricked. Who benefits from the death of .xxx? The pornographers, that's who.
The idea behind the .xxx domain is to make it brain-dead easy to keep porn out of the American family home. That's the reason it was proposed. So why do these people oppose it? The argument against the .xxx proposal seems to indicate either an incredible naïveté regarding the workings of networks and computers or an extreme distrust of computer users themselves. Perhaps it's a combination of both. Concerned Women for America claims that the .xxx domain will increase porn by giving the pornographers a "new platform." What? Can someone tell me exactly how this creates a new platform? Don't these people understand how a ghetto works? Do they know what a platform is? Do they understand that this is like the warning stickers they themselves insist should be put on records and games? How do they not get that?—
It's a warning label, not a platform! It's isolation. It's zoning. Would you allow locating adult bookstores next to churches? It seems that Concerned Women for America would demand doing so.
The idea behind .xxx is to put these porn folks into their own space where they can be somewhat controlled. The idea is not to make getting to porn easier. Getting to porn is easy enough now—even by accident. That's why the current structure is a threat to family values.
If given a choice, I'm certain that most online pornographers would all rather have a .com extension. Now the porn publishers are getting their wish to stay in the mainstream, thanks to Concerned Women for America. Now, thanks to Concerned Women for America and its ideas, every family in America will still get porn flowing into its computers, with no end in sight.
What were they thinking? It seems as if Concerned Women for America was convinced that an .xxx top-level domain would be a magnet for users. What users? Their husbands? One spokesperson thinks that kids will rush over to the .xxx space as if it were a store with candy. Most normal young kids do not want to see porn. And with the .xxx mechanism, they can be prevented from seeing it accidentally with a simple browser filter. Read the press release from Concerned Women of America here. What arrogance!
We wanted to make it a snap to filter porn out. That was the idea. Have I made my point enough times?
Killing the .xxx idea is no victory for morality. It's a victory for porn. Ask any pornographers and they'll tell you that. Without the .xxx domain, porn is ubiquitous rather than marginalized.
Ladies, you may as well crow this: "We won, now porn will be everywhere!" There will now be more porn than ever, and it will be harder than ever to filter it out. It will come in e-mails and show up on search engines. The .xxx idea was going to be a step forward. It was labeling. Instead, the idea was ravished by naïve do-gooders who are clueless as to how the Internet works and what has to be done about porn.
They must be so proud of themselves. And Vint Cerf, known as one of the "fathers" of the Net, should be ashamed of himself for knuckling under to knuckleheads. It's a sad day for freedom. The pornographers will be lifting their glasses. Now the purveyors of porn may as well own the whole Net.