Home > Congress, Tech > Baucus and the .xxx domain

Baucus and the .xxx domain

February 13, 2006 Leave a comment Go to comments

Wulfgar had about the same reaction I did when reading Baucus’s opinion piece (or was it a letter? I haven’t seen a paper copy) in the Chronicle today.

One of the things that really struck me was the strange idea that a .xxx domain will hinder online predators. As Wulfgar says, Yahoo chatrooms are not going to be moved to the .xxx domain. Neither are places like MySpace. So what does that leave for cyber crime? Kids stumbling randomly upon a porn site? I’m not sure that’s cyber crime. Still, it’s certainly something to be concerned about, but is it big enough to require a change on the scale Baucus is proposing? I don’t think so. I don’t see why current filters and simple supervision aren’t sufficient. I don’t think creating an .xxx domain for adult sites is a bad idea, but the mandatory part seems like an unwieldy solution to a fairly small problem.

This whole thing strikes me as the same as this corporate takeover of the Internet we’ve been hearing about, too. It’s not as disconcerting, but it’s the same idea. Rather than allowing us to choose the content we want freely, we’re pressured into choosing certain companies or staying away from types of content. Considering the Internet is such a valuable resource because of the open sharing of information, that can only be a bad thing.

Another thing I find interesting is that the porn industry and the religious right are on the same side. Focus on the Family opposes the domain because it’s sort of an approval of porn:

Daniel Weiss, senior analyst for media and sexuality at Focus on the Family Action, added that a top-level domain dedicated to pornography does little more than lend legitimacy and credibility to a vile and largely illegal industry.

Vile I tell you, vile! I’m not sure exactly why the porn industry generally isn’t in favor of it. Maybe just that it’s regulation of their industry. The idea of singling out one type of speech for regulation is probably a sticking point for an industry that relies on a broad right to free speech.

Some of Baucus’s other ideas aren’t bad. Maybe overkill, but not bad. Age-verification software is about as much as I’m willing to tolerate as far as regulating this area. Educational initiatives are probably a good idea.

Finally, I saw something strange in that Focus on the Family article:

While some say a designated dot-xxx domain would enable parents to easily filter out pornographic Web sites, David Burt, public relations manager at Secure Computing Corp., said that while it sounds simple, it would significantly complicate and multiply the job of filtering companies.

He explained that for every Web site address in the familiar, http://www.WebsiteName.com, format, there is a corresponding numerical address, called the Internet Protocol or IP address—which is what computers actually use to find their way around the Web.

“The bottom line is that .xxx won’t make our jobs any easier,” Burt said. “because, in addition to blocking the http://www.porn-site.xxx, we will have to block the numeric IP as well.”

I don’t really understand the problem here. As far as I know, the problem filters have to solve is blocking the correct sites. I’m not sure why that necessarily involves the IP address, but if you have to do that already, fine. A .xxx domain will give a clear indication that the site is unsuitable. There would be no need to check the content of the site and there wouldn’t be any false positives (ignoring the definitional issues here). In any case, couldn’t the filter just block the domain name from resolving? Maybe I’m just confused.

Categories: Congress, Tech
  1. February 13, 2006 at 8:23 pm

    That’s why the guy is in PR and not programming. The Domain Name Server takes care of the resolution of the name into an IP address. Using the name is a better solution because many web hosting services don’t issue permanent IP addresses if they can avoid it, so many sites can’t be blocked using a numeric address.

    If this guy’s company is relying on fixed IP addresses their users may be in for some unpleasant surprises.

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