In response to the announcement a new extension for Internet addresses would be established especially for sexually explicit websites – .xxx – both pornographers and traditional-values activists have taken up sides on the issue of whether or not it is a positive development.

Earlier this month the Internet Corporation for Assigning Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which oversees the Internet, approved an application to establish the new TLD, or top level domain.

If approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the new .xxx domain would provide pornographers with their own corner of the Internet, a sort of online red-light district. While proponents say the new domain will make it easier for parents to filter out objectionable websites, opponents point out that participation in the new domain will be voluntary and self-regulating. They also note pornographers that now have .com sites will be able to keep those as well.

Jan LaRue of Concerned Women for America wrote that allowing pornographers to have a presence in both the .com and .xxx domains would “double their pleasure and double their fun while expanding their reach and making it easier for kids to find their porn.”

Wrote LaRue in Human Events: “Allowing an industry that produces and distributes hard-core pornography prosecutable under the federal obscenity laws to voluntarily self-regulate makes as much sense as allowing Murder Incorporated to regulate hit men who voluntarily register with www.wackjobsrus.mob. No need for the killjoy, meddlesome feds to interfere by enforcing federal law.”

Opponents also criticize the seeming legitimacy such a domain gives pornographers.

“This red light district would further legitimize the $12 billion a year online porn industry by giving pornographers a place at the table in developing and maintaining their new property,” states the website of the Family Research Council.

“.XXX domains should be discouraged. It’s not pornographers that need a safe harbor; it’s children and families that do. Aggressive prosecution of the obscenity industry remains the most urgent need.”

Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, believes it’s too late to try to corral explicit websites together under one domain.

“In theory, anything you can do to make people aware that a website is pornographic is helpful,” Wildmon told WND. “But the pornography industry is so big on the Web I think the horse has been let out of the barn.

“The most effective step to guard your home and your family is to have a filter that works and cannot be overridden.”

Wildmon says his organization gets calls every day from families negatively impacted by online porn.

Talk-show host Michael Reagan, who says he recently came to terms with his own childhood experiences with sexual abuse and child pornography as described in his book “Twice Adopted,” strongly supports creation of the .xxx domain, seeing it as the first step toward forcing all porn sites to use the new extension.

“There’s nothing wrong with letting them have their own domain,” Reagan told WND, “but if I want to block it, then I can block anything that is .xxx coming into my home.”

Reagan would like to see Congress get involved by making a law requiring all pornographic sites to use the new domain.

“I don’t think it should be voluntary,” he said. “I think it’s something Congress can actually pass into law.”

Comparing Federal Communications Commission regulations of TV and movies to the Internet, Reagan commented: “Through the FCC and through Congress, when I turn on my TV now I find out what the rating is. When I go to a movie I get to see what the rating is.

“Why not have [pornographers] have their own domain – and make it a law – so they have to stay in their own domain?”

Reagan says he is working with federal lawmakers to introduce such a law.

“We’re hoping to write what is ultimately going to be the Michael Reagan Online Child Protection Act,” he said.

It’s just such a mandatory system some leaders in the $12 billion-a-year pornography industry fear.

The Associated Press reported Robert Corn-Revere, a lawyer hired by the firm that applied for the new domain, ICM Registry Inc., said the company has pledged $250,000 for a legal defense fund to keep .xxx voluntary.

And Mark Kernes, senior editor of Adult Video News, thinks the .xxx domain is “the first step toward driving the adult Internet into a ghetto very much like zoning laws have driven adult stores into the outskirts,” he told AP.

The proposal would have ICM Registry charging $60 for each of up to 500,000 names it expects to register, $10 of which would go to a nonprofit organization that would educate parents about safe Internet surfing for children.

According to tracking by comScore Media Metrix, two in five Internet users visited an adult site in April. The company said 4 percent of all Web traffic and 2 percent of all surfing time involved an adult site.

If ICANN can finalize a contract with ICM Registry and the Commerce Department signs off on the deal, .xxx sites could begin showing up on the Net by year’s end.

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