U.S. Accused of Unfair Dominance in .xxx Wrestle Match

 
 
By Ben Charny  |  Posted 2006-05-22 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A trove of e-mails stirs more controversy about a proposal to distribute Web addresses ending in .xxx.

Newly released e-mails allege U.S. government officials pressured a leading Internet authority into voting against creating a kind of red-light district for adult Web sites.

The apparent involvement of the U.S. Department of Commerce, President Bushs chief political operative Karl Rove and others is significant. If true, it means the U.S. government violated terms of a complicated arrangement it has with ICANN, the Internet authority that voted 9-5 last week not to OK the .xxx proposal.

Click here to read more about how ICANN has come under this kind of fire before.
What ICM Registry wants is permission to distribute Web addresses that end in .xxx to be used exclusively by adult entertainment sites. The proposal won support from the Wired Safety & Wired Kids, the Internet Content & Ratings Association and other child safety groups because of the way its expected to make it easier for authorities and parents to police the Internet.

Detractors say it just makes it that much easier to find porn. ICANN voted it down 9-5, after seemingly being on track to approve of the effort.

Since the ICANN vote, ICM Registry has made public e-mails, here in PDF form, between members of the Department of Commerce, various other branches of the federal government and ICANN. The company had asked for the communications earlier under a Freedom of Information Act request.

After discovering many of the emails had been redacted, ICM on May 19 asked a judge in Washington, D.C., to force the Department of Commerce to fill in the blanks.

Click here to read more about how the .xxx proposal has stirred controversy. ICM says the e-mails show how the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, were subjected to intense pressure to intervene in some way on behalf of the The Family Research Council, and Focus On The Family, two religious conservative lobbyists.

NTIA members then started keeping watch as to how the .xxx proposal was reported in the media, had drafted letters protesting the .xxx domain addressed to ICANN, helped facilitate meetings between ICANN and concerned groups, and otherwise "marshaled our resources at ICANN," as one NTIA official put it in an e-mail. As the e-mail blitz was going on, Bushs main political operative, Karl Rove, met with James Dobson, the leader of Focus On The Family, to air his opposition to the .xxx proposal, ICM learned through other sources. A secret "Stop .XXX" order went in effect shortly after the meeting, according to the documents.

This was all taking place in spite of a ban on such activities called upon by a memorandum of understanding allowing the Department of Commerce to work on a particular project with ICANN involving domain name servers.

"The documents released so far reveal that the United States government exerted undue political influence on ICANNs consideration of the .xxx domain application, and treated an independent corporation as a client agency of the United States government despite a lack of any legitimate authority to do so," wrote Stuart Lawley, ICM Registry president, in an e-mail to eWEEK.

Comments were not immediately available from ICANN, plus the two conservative religious groups and NTIA officials that took part in the e-mail communications.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on government and politics.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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