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Originally published March 18, 2011 at 6:46 PM | Page modified March 18, 2011 at 6:54 PM

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Agency OKs '.xxx' as suffix for porn Web addresses

The agency governing Internet addresses on Friday approved the creation of a new red-light district on the Web, but the decision may not end years of fighting over the contentious plan.

The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — The agency governing Internet addresses on Friday approved the creation of a new red-light district on the Web, but the decision may not end years of fighting over the contentious plan.

The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) authorized the creation of a ".xxx" suffix for pornography websites. The decision was immediately slammed by some of the sex industry's biggest names.

Industry members say they fear they could be subject to arbitrary censorship by governments and even by a new board overseeing the dot-xxx domain. They also say the plan would unfairly force existing pornography sites to register their sister domain names ending in "xxx" to prevent other businesses from using the names.

"Our industry is unanimously opposed," said Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association representing more than 1,000 pornography businesses.

The decision is a big win for ICM Registry, a Florida-based company that first applied for the dot-xxx domain in 2004. ICM will oversee the domain and profit from it. Its chief executive, Stuart Lawley, dismissed his detractors.

"The opposition has been very small and very vocal," he said. "It has been completely overblown."

He said sites in the dot-xxx domains will be scanned daily for viruses and will be offered a payment-processing system that customers will be able to trust.

"Everybody wins," Lawley said. "The consumer of adult sites wins. The providers will benefit because more people will become paying customers. And those who don't want to go there will win as well, because the sites will be easier to filter."

Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of the ICANN board, said that the vote vindicated the accountability of his organization. The corporation had originally opposed the application by ICM Registry in 2007. But after ICM appealed, the organization tentatively reversed that vote in June, and said its decision to give the project a green light was made purely on technical grounds.

Thrush said some established websites were probably opposing the new dot-xxx domains for business reasons.

"We heard from a number of them that they didn't want it," Thrush said. "The board wasn't persuaded by their arguments. They are incumbents, and they are trying to oppose a new entrant."

Nine board members voted to approve the registry, and three voted against.

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