ASACP, FOSI Respond to .XXX Decision
Balkam sent his statement via email to a long list of industry figures and nonprofit organizations.
Irvine said she is concerned that Balkam's statement might cause some to believe that the industry has made no effort to self-regulate, and was compelled to issue a response to clear up the matter.
Balkam told XBIZ that he had seen the proposed .XXX sTLD as a tremendous opportunity for the proliferation of online content labeling, and a way for the adult industry to get behind labeling in order to avoid further government interference.
Balkam wrote in his statement that ICANN denying a .XXX sTLD was a step in the wrong direction in the efforts to protect children from adult online material.
"We believe [ICANN] has missed a great opportunity to increase the use of content labels and thus make filtering and other child protection efforts more effective," Balkam said. "The proposal was actually an important self-regulatory effort in the field of online safety, and passing it up only hurts parents and children."
ASACP Executive Director Joan disagreed with Balkam's remarks.
"Mr. Balkam and FOSI are serious about protecting children, and we respect that," Irvine wrote. "However, ASACP does not agree that ICANN’s rejection of .XXX represents a failure to protect children online, because we do not believe that a .XXX sTLD would have further enhanced the online adult entertainment industry’s ongoing voluntary efforts to protect children."
Irvine assured readers that ASACP favors self-regulatory labeling of adult websites — shown by the recent launch of its voluntary RTA (Restricted to Adults) labeling initiative — but that the key word is "self-regulatory."
"The RTA label is voluntary, free to use and universally available to any website that wishes to clearly and effectively label itself as being inappropriate for viewing by minors," Irvine said. "Adult companies have begun adopting the RTA label."
Balkam said the RTA labels are a "good effort," but that they don't have the same amount of detail that his ICRA labels offer. He said RTA's potential weakness is that they generally aren't backed by the online industry, and not enough adult sites currently use it.
"Seventy percent of websites that use ICRA labels actually have no sexual content," Balkam said.
He said the ICRA labels are recognized by many Internet filters, whereas RTAs are not. However, Irvine pointed out that RTA was only recently launched, and has in fact been steadily gaining industry backing, while more and more sites continue to adopt it.
Balkam said FOSI has created a customized Google search engine that would recognize ICRA-labeled sites in its searches. This, Balkam said, could be used as a positive incentive to use the labeling system.
Additionally, Balkam said FOSI currently is working with the World Wide Web Consortium to develop a new format and standard of content labeling. Dubbed "Powder," the format would provide search engines with richer site descriptions, and users can set its preferences to recognize and leave out certain content. Powder can essentially be used as an Internet filter.
Another issue Balkam brought up in his statement was the proposed funding of the International Foundation for Online Responsibility that would have come from .XXX registration fees.
Irvine responded by reminding readers that the work the foundation would have done is one of the goals ASACP and the Free Speech Coalition already strive to accomplish — setting up best practices and child pornography reporting standards.
"ASACP will continue to work with the online adult entertainment industry to promote effective self-regulation that protects children," Irvine said. "We will also continue to work with organizations like FOSI that are dedicated to the same goals as ASACP."