NEW DELHI—Against staunch opposition from the adult industry, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) nonetheless approved the creation of the ".xxx" domain last Friday, and one country has wasted no time in vowing to take advantage of the move by announcing that it will block all access to the domain within the country.
"India along with many other countries from the Middle East and Indonesia opposed the grant of the domain in the first place, and we would proceed to block the whole domain, as it goes against the IT Act and Indian laws," an unidentified "senior official" at the Indian Ministry of Internet Technology told the Economic Times. "Though some people have said that segregation is better, and some countries allow it, for other nations transmission and direct distribution of such content goes against their morals and culture."
This is exactly the sort of outcome that adult industry leaders opposed to .xxx predicted would happen, and considering the number of sexually repressive regimes around the globe—many in the Middle East but hardly all—the creation of .xxx will make censorship of the sexual aspects of the internet much easier for those countries. And should the U.S. government, as feared by .xxx opponents, someday require U.S.-based adult websites with sexually explicit content to give up their current .com, .net and other domains, and migrate their material completely over to .xxx, that material would be entirely inaccessible to any country that blocks access to the new domain.
The Indian Technology Act of 2001, under "Offences," Section 67, titled "Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form," reads, "Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the electronic form any material which contains sexually explicit act or conduct shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees [approx. US$20,833] and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and also with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees."
At least one internet expert, though, claims that Section 67 is toothless.
"Though government can block the access to the .xxx sites altogether under law, it will be easily challenged in court," said Vivek Sood, cyber lawyer and author of The Fundamental Right to the Internet. "The same content can be hosted in other domains like .com and .in and Section 67 of IT Act is actually a mockery in itself."
Not so, replies the Free Speech Coalition board chair, attorney Jeffrey Douglas.
"Many important countries to the adult industry's web business model are likely to block .xxx, including some major players in western Europe," Douglas told AVN. "This will create extraordinary difficulties for companies that link to .xxx sites, or that have advertising rates based on traffic, because their customers won't know whether the message that they're paying to send is going to get to the places that they intend them to. At a minimum, it means that the links [to .xxx] will be dead links, which will make it difficult to measure traffic and other problems, but depending on how the countries go about blocking .xxx, it could have the impact of blocking the entirety of the site. The other difficulty is if, in complying with the proposed IFFOR guidelines, your .com has to mirror your .xxx, that can also result in problems for your .com in countries that block .xxx."