• Wed
  • Sep 3, 2014
  • Updated: 2:28am

Triple-X suffix unlikely to lure porn barons away from orgy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2005, 12:00am

The internet can seem like a sprawling orgy of porn. According to Internet Filter Review, it hosts four million pornographic sites (12 per cent of the total number of websites) and almost 400 million pornographic pages. No less than 25 per cent of all search engine requests - that is 70 million - relate to sex.


Enter clean-up campaigner Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This non-profit group that oversees internet domains plans to create a '.xxx' domain for pornography only.


Despite online porn's plague proportions, the response to ICANN's announcement has been a welter of scepticism and scorn. For starters, the price of one of the proposed domains will be US$60: about 10 times higher than for any other suffix. That makes ICANN look like an American TV evangelist trying to convince you that he and Jesus deserve your money. In short, the scheme could be a nice little earner.


And it will almost certainly fail to achieve anything worthwhile. The key reason is simple - the proposal is voluntary.


Why will the Svengalis who milk the US$60 billion global industry for all it is worth choose to pay to adopt the domain name when it seems to do them no favours? In fact, it looks like a headache because it means their sites will be segregated like sex shops on the fringe of a city, creating a ghetto and sharpening the stigma that already bedevils erotica.


The triple-X suffix makes matters worse because it smacks of extremity. It suggests that the content is hardcore only, which may scare away users who prefer to flirt with light material. Naughty office oglers may be thwarted too because it will be easy for bosses to block the sites.


ICANN's idea makes some sense because it will force webmasters to follow yet-to-be-written best practice guidelines containing prohibitions against spamming and so on. The requirements may make credit card issuers more willing to accept charges.


However, Playboy said it did not plan to uproot any of its sites and move them to the new domain. If Playboy, the upmarket face of the industry, boycotts the proposal, what small-time porn baron will bother to take the plunge unless he or she sees the dotcom and triple-X suffix as a way to boost traffic?


The only porn baron I know is not the world's most progressive character. Just prompting him to answer his door requires a sustained frenzy of knocking, roared greetings through the letterbox and a handful of gravel against his office window. He strikes me as no more likely to re-register than join the Mormons.


Even if some porn barons do prove virtuous and adventurous enough to comply with ICANN, it is doubtful whether the zone will, as intended, keep kids out.


The system has a major technical loophole - a domain name is just a convenient label for a site's actual numeric internet address. That means geeky kids - or dumb kids who know geeks - may simply use the numeric address when the taboo equivalent is blocked.


Or they may just head straight for the raunchy sites that retain the dotcom suffix. Other easy avenues to the forbidden realm include using the image search function on engines such as Google. Another option is the file-sharing systems heaving with porn.


Adding to the absurdity surrounding the issue, some anti-porn campaigners oppose the new domain. They say it legitimises purveyors of digital flesh and gives parents false hope.


Whether they need to fret about porn in the first place is debatable. We live in an era obsessed with the well-being of 'our most precious commodity'. This protectiveness may make us blind to the truth about children.


I am sure that droves of boys and some girls access porn whatever filters their guardians lamely try to impose because today's kids were more or less born Googling and surfing the Net. Even so, it is still debatable whether looking at porn has a toxic effect on young minds.


Bear in mind that the practice has always gone on. In the era before flesh went digital, naughty boys managed to acquire top-shelf fare on the sly without necessarily degenerating into deviants, as far as I know.


If anything is likely to warp youthful minds it is corralling pornography into an online red-light district. Net do-gooders might do better to focus their efforts on censoring the twin forces that seem to pose a true threat to children's future.


The first is games such as Grand Theft Auto, which teach kids that killing cops is cool. The second is the online wealth of gut-wrenching paedophilic material, some of it involving torture, that tarnishes and degrades the internet.


My message to the crusaders determined to expend resources on pushing adult porn into a corner is simple: get over it.


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