September 18, 2005

Open Letter: Why "Dot-Ex-Ex-Ex" is for Chumps

Greetings. Consider this to be an open letter addressed to that segment of the Internet community where the real money is made -- the "adult entertainment" industry. For that matter, the operators of the ubiquitous non-commercial sexually-oriented Web sites can join in as well.

I have some free advice that may save you a great deal of grief.

Now, in all honesty, I don't have any particular love for your operations or your products. I'm not a prude (well, not much of one, anyway), but by continuing to push the envelope you folks have engendered a great deal of negative reaction that's approaching a fever pitch.

That reaction is what I'm really concerned about, since it's likely to splatter collateral damage broadly across a wide range of free speech and civil liberties arenas.

So, in my desire to protect them, I'll try to protect you as well.

My advice? Don't fall into the "dot-ex-ex-ex" trap that's being set for you by ICANN.

As you no doubt are aware, ICANN appears to be preparing for the deployment -- despite broad protests across the political spectrum and a couple of delays -- of a "dot-ex-ex-ex" top-level domain (TLD). (I use the phonetic representation of the domain to avoid targeting by overzealous obscenity filters.)

I've explained elsewhere [1], [2], why dot-ex-ex-ex is an absolutely atrocious idea.

ICANN claims that participation in the domain will be voluntary, and that will indeed be the case -- at first.

But as I discussed back in a 2001 PFIR position paper on "domain ghettoization", such efforts are a slippery slope likely leading to widespread filtering and censoring by ISPs, governments, plus a broad range of other entities, affecting a lot more than merely pornographic materials. A glance at the current Supreme Court situation is not particularly encouraging in this regard.

ICANN apparently doesn't view their dot-ex-ex-ex plan as a trap. They seem to consider themselves courageous by pushing on with that TLD despite the broad public and private consensus that it's a terrible concept. Unfortunately, this is the sort of "forge ahead over the cliff" behavior that we've come to expect from ICANN as an organization.

So if dot-ex-ex-ex arrives, my strong recommendation is that you ignore it. Pretend that it doesn't exist. Allow it to be an empty database. Joining that domain won't provide you with any cover -- what you'll actually be doing is painting a giant bulls-eye on yourselves -- and on a vast array of worthy and important groups and materials that have nothing whatever to do with adult entertainment.

Dot-ex-ex-ex is for chumps.

By the way, I originally considered titling this entry with a domain-related variation on the old "Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came" line, but while the situation with dot-ex-ex-ex is indeed dangerous -- and an example of so much that's wrong with Internet Governance in general and ICANN in particular -- this matter is anything but a dirty joke.


Posted by Lauren at September 18, 2005 09:16 AM | Permalink
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