ICANN Delays .XXX, Seeks Changes

NEW YORK— While speakers of the Catalan language were approved to have their own domain late Thursday, ICANN once again held back from a final decision on the controversial .XXX top-level domain, leaving the issue open for further debate.

Although .cat, which harbors its own controversy due to small but vocal separatist movements led by Catalan speakers in France, Italy and Andorra, met quick approval, the .XXX domain has failed to find unified ground. While supporter of .cat argued its creation would unify Catalan speakers, the same logic hasn’t applied to .XXX, as many critics from both sides of the political spectrum have spoken out against its adoption.

Officials at ICANN said the delay was sought to effect changes in a contract with ICM Registry Inc., the company that would run .XXX if it is created. Details of the changes sought were not disclosed.

Officials at ICM continue to defend the new domain, saying it would help clean up the $12 billion industry by instituting new rules against nefarious Internet marketing campaigns and other ploys common on some adult sites, such as multiple pop-up windows or hidden redirect scripts that send unwitting surfers to adult websites. The company also has said it would make filtering of adult sites easier and more effective.

Criticisms are varied on the issue. Some anti-porn advocates argue .XXX would legitimize porn sites, a social factor by itself that has brought intense disapproval from religious groups throughout the country, who lament recent estimates from Jupitermedia that nearly 40 percent of surfers visit a porn site every month. Others say it would simply expand pornography’s already considerable hold on the Internet universe, highlighting the fact that adult sites still will be able to keep their existing .com domains. Many in the adult industry point to fears that .XXX would invite First Amendment infringements by making it easier to block access to adult sites.

ICANN also was scheduled to consider a .asia domain Thursday, but no action was taken. Officials at ICANN did not say when they plan to revisit the .XXX issue.