Apr 16

.xxx top level domain goes live

I still do not know what to think about this. In my ideal world, the existing obscenity laws on the books would be enforced, and pornography sites would be shut down simply for being pornography sites. But this is not an ideal world, and all hope of this ever happening seems to be lost.

Like all vices, what you cannot eradicate or ban, you can at least regulate. Right now, the pornography industry is nearly unregulated, and what regulation there is, is hardly enforced. As much as the various adult providers make a show of keeping adult material out of the hands or away from they eyes of the youth, it is clear that their real intention is to hook the youth on pornography at a young age so that they can acquire customers for life, much like the tobacco industry was accused of doing with the "Joe Camel" campaign.

The .xxx domain has been a proposal on the books for decades. The adult industry itself has opposed it. Their fear is that the .xxx domain will become a sort of "red light district". If that is indeed where this is leading, then I am all for it. But if, instead, the .xxx domain is used to make pornography even more readily available, then I am opposed, although I can hardly imagine how it could become any more readily available than it already is.

Right now the .xxx domain registry is entirely voluntary. This means that adult providers will naturally secure their own .xxx domains, but they are not forced to give up their .com, .net, .org or other regular TLDs. However, the fact that the .xxx TLD now exists opens the door for something that I would very much like to see happen. The USA or other countries could pass a law which states, very simply, that no pornographic site is allowed to use any domain other than .xxx, and that any pornographic site caught using any domain other than .xxx will be subject to very high fines.

Why do this? It's very simple, actually. If the .xxx becomes a red light district and all adult websites are forced to use it, then it becomes a trivial matter to filter out pornography on the internet. Just block access to the entire .xxx hierarchy. Problem solved. As it is, filtering is always hit and miss. There are so many porn sites, many of them at innocent sounding domains, or domains that on the face of it do not sound like a porn site. Filtering software providers are faced with the unhappy task of having to scour the internet and record the addresses of porn sites one-by-one, so that they may be blocked by filtering software. The results are never perfect.

On the other hand, I cannot imagine how this is ever going to happen. The chief difficulty with such a proposal has dogged public policy as long as pornography has been recognized as a thing in itself, namely, the question of how one determines what is pornographic or obscene, vs. artistic, medical, etc. Blanket rules constantly backfire. Back in the day, AOL learned this the hard way when they tried to implement a simplistic filtering system that banned discussions based upon the individual words they contained. Someone got the bright idea to ban the word "breast", and ended up unwittingly shutting down the entire breast cancer discussion forums.

While most pornography can easily be classified as such, there is a huge gray area that would become a battlefield of endless squabbling and arbitrary rulings. After all, it was Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who, in one obscenity case, wrote: "hard-core pornography is hard to define" but "I know it when I see it". Unfortunately, the ability of any single person to recognize it does nothing to codify what qualifies as obscene.

Obscenity laws must clearly define obscenity by objective and unambiguous standards, or else we risk anything or nothing being categorized as obscene. Perhaps the best one can hope for is a definition which covers the material that clearly crosses the line, such as the depiction of actual copulation. But if that's as far as it can be defined, then any such law won't be of much value. There are too many ways to skirt such a definition, and in the past the adult industry has proved masterful at side-stepping the law any way they possibly can.

About

I'm a Lutheran pastor, a CTO, a father, amateur photographer, programmer, Irish music fan, and all around geek, but I only have one blog. So, you will find here a mix of theology, photography, geek speak, family news, and whatever else strikes my fancy. If you get confused, there are now categories…

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