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Proposals for a virtual red light Internet district have been overturned for the third time during a contentious meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in Portugal. Concluding business at the meeting, a resolution rejecting a proposal from the ICM Registry to create an .xxx top level domain was passed by nine votes to five.

Despite the reported tens of thousands of pre-registration requests for .xxx domains received by ICM, almost ironically it would appear to be the lack of backing from the adult industry itself that was a key factor in voting it down for many of the board members. Indeed, one adult industry trade organization, the Free Speech Coalition has made it very clear it is strongly opposed and has lobbied ICANN to this effect. AN FSC board member, Reed Lee, has said that ICANN members who voted against the .xxx domain did so almost uniformly for one or both of two reasons: “They didn't want ICANN ensconced in content control and censorship controversies. And they recognized that sharp opposition from the community distinguished this application from all others in this sponsored round.” With members of the FSC covering adult industry webmasters from the largest organizations to the smallest, this undoubtedly has an impact upon ICANN which prides itself upon a bottom-up decision making process.

But reading between the lines of the official vote transcript, which is lengthy and features members on both sides of the divide making passionate pleas, it seems as if a fear of political censorship brought more pressure to bear than just weighting a vote in favor of the sponsored community. The danger being that governments would use the .xxx domain as some kind of tool to enable the regulation of adult material, a control that could be applied differently around the globe.

Which, of course, is something of a double edged sword as this works both in favor and against the .xxx idea. What some see as outright censorship, others see as the only way to safely segregate adult material and enable it to be easily filtered for those who don’t want, or are too young to legally view, such content.

One thing is for sure though, this is not a debate that will run and run. ICANN Board Chair, and Grandfather of the Internet, Vinton Cerf stated that another proposal for an .XXX top level domain will not be considered.

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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