Adult Entertainment’s Empty Online Red-Light District

Adult EntertainmentThis one detail the adult entertainment industry refuses to bare.

It was in June 2010 when The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit international organisation responsible for keeping internet namespaces stable and secure, agreed to grant the Florida-based ICM Registry’s long-standing proposal to create a specialised dot-xxx suffix for adult entertainment websites.

Walling Off

The switch from the .com to the .xxx suffix may appear innocuous, but considering that adult entertainment accounts for a third of all internet traffic, it is understandable why countless people would want to protest against the change at the time. And protest they did.

Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, which represents more than a thousand adult entertainment businesses, tells The New York Times how the lobbying efforts against .xxx domains ‘made for strange bedfellows’. She of course, refers to the alliance between adult entertainment businesses and religious groups — an unlikely, vitriolic pairing that sought to block a common threat.

Staying On

It was the ICM Registry’s vision to create a clean and secure red-light district in cyberspace, free from spam, viruses and thieves. Data was a major factor as well, as keeping track of marketing efforts and geo-targeted adult traffic would be streamlined within a single area of the web, which users can easily access or avoid through their decision of typing a singular unified .xxx suffix. ‘It is good for everybody’, said Stuart Lawley, Chairman and Chief Executive of ICM. ‘It is a win for the consumer of adult content. They will know that the dot-xxx sites will operate by certain standards’.

Unfortunately, institutions on both ends of the spectrum fail to see the merits Mr. Lawley purports. Religious organisations were concerned that the definite .xxx suffix would make pornography much more telegraphed and accessible. Businesses within the industry itself, on the other hand, fear that the new domain standards would invite stricter regulations and even censorship. ‘If the board doesn’t like what a producer creates, there is the possibility that they could censor it’, Ms. Duke said. ‘This will ghettoize our industry and make us a target of regulation’.

ICANN, meanwhile, wants to provide a purely objective ruling. Peter Dengate Thrush, the agency’s chairman, notes that the organisation has no interest or stake in the websites involved. ‘The applicants believe that this will allow people to filter pornography more effectively; if they do that and it works, that’s great for them, but that’s not part of our issue’, he says.