WASHINGTON, D.C. (Reuters) — The group that oversees Internet domain names said Aug. 17 it had postponed a decision to set up a special .xxx domain for sex sites that has drawn opposition from conservative activists.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, was scheduled to hear the proposal on Aug. 16 but postponed its decision until Sept. 15 after the U.S. Commerce Department asked for more time to hear objections.
In a letter dated Aug. 11, the Commerce Department said it had received nearly 6,000 letters and e-mails from people who are concerned that it would make life easier for the online sex industry.
An internal ICANN group that represents the United States and other governments also asked for more time for public input. The group did not say which governments had objected to the domain.
ICANN announced in June that it would move ahead with plans to evaluate the domain, pitched by ICM Registry, a private company which is proposing to run the domain as a sort of online red-light district that would enable people to easily find porn or filter it out.
“.XXX was deferred in response to requests from the applicant ICM, as well as ICANN Government Advisory Committee Chairman’s and the US Department of Commerce’s request to allow for additional time for comments by interested parties,” ICANN said in a statement.
Efforts to ban or segregate online pornography have failed in the United States for years on free-speech grounds.
ICANN in the past has resisted congressional attempts to set up a domain for sex sites on the grounds that it doesn’t want to regulate online content.
Sex sites wouldn’t be required to sign up for .xxx addresses, but allowing ICM to handle the domain would sidestep those issues, an ICANN spokesman said in June.
That didn’t sit well with conservative activists who worry that a .xxx domain will further legitimize the porn industry and won’t make it easier to avoid sexual content online.
The Family Research Council, a conservative group, has urged its members to contact the Commerce Department and ICANN, and a Web site called ConservativePetitions.com says it has gathered 1,867 signatures opposing the .xxx domain.
In its letter to ICANN, the Commerce Department said it had received an “unprecedented” volume of correspondence on the issue.
A lawyer who has helped ICM through the application process was not immediately available for comment.