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Originally published Tuesday, September 6, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Sex, the Internet and the future

A devastating decision almost snuck up on us recently: the provisional approval — temporarily on hold — to add a new ".xxx" domain to the Internet...

Syndicated Columnist

A devastating decision almost snuck up on us recently: the provisional approval — temporarily on hold — to add a new ".xxx" domain to the Internet, alongside .com, .org and .net. This proposal was lobbied for by pornographers, recently approved by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and met by outrage from think tanks, therapists, average citizens and family groups.

The outrage sparked a short reprieve. ICANN is holding the decision until Sept. 15, to give pornographers time to "clarify" the proposal.

But "clarifying" a terrible idea will not make it a good one. While this space won't permit adequate discussion of the negative consequences, let me at least debunk the main myths, cleverly proposed by the pornographers themselves.

They want us to believe a .xxx domain would accomplish three good goals: (1) Move all pornography to one type of domain, (2) establish consumer protections for all .xxx sites, such as against malicious codes, and (3) most important, make porn easier to block.

Unfortunately, the proposal would accomplish none of those things. Pornographers could keep all current domains, and merely add .xxx ones — they anticipate more than 100,000 new sites in the first year. At the 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two-thirds of the members said that excessive interest in online porn played a role in more than half of their divorce cases. Considering that, more porn is the last thing society needs.

Consumer protections would be voluntary and self-enforced — and remember, these are the same good corporate citizens who routinely prostitute teenage girls. Voluntary guidelines are better than none, but let's not pretend this is something it isn't.

Finally, blocking porn sites would become harder, not easier. David Burt, at filtering company Secure Computing, explains in a Family Research Council article that blocking any site — .xxx or not — entails finding and blocking the technical IP address behind each page. "And that," he says, in the understatement of the year, "is a big job. We currently (filter) 2.1 million pornography sites ... about 420 million pages of pornography. So rather than making our jobs easier, (.xxx domains) will simply create more pornography sites for us to filter."

A decision to create a .xxx domain will negatively affect untold millions of households worldwide. I hope ICANN realizes that, soon.

Harvard-educated Shaunti Feldhahn (scfeldhahn@yahoo.com) is a conservative Christian author and speaker, and married mother of two children.

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