Making the XXX Internet Safe For Kids

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Here’s a little piece of trivia for your water cooler conversations: It was 25 years ago today that the first dot-com site, Symbolics.com, popped up on the Internet and initiated the wave of commercial Web sites. As it turns out, the runner-up for domain names was “.cor” which was short for corporate.

Over the next 25 years, the Internet exploded into a thriving and ultimately chaotic field that includes a fair amount of spam and smut. While it may be impossible to wash the Internet clean of this kind of content, there is currently a debate over whether we can at least separate the questionable content from the benign.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (yes, that really exists) is currently debating whether or not to end the tyranny of dot-com domain names and introduce a few new ones, including .xxx, which would be specifically for pornographic sites.

The idea, according to CNET, is that this new domain could act as a kind of buffer between pornography and consumers. The average user, and kids especially, would be less likely to accidentally stumble onto a scandalous site if it was clearly labeled as such, and what clearer label could there be than .xxx? On top of this, these .xxx sites would be subject to “best business practices,” which could help protect Internet users.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to this plan. CNET argues that relying on .xxx domains could create a false sense of security for Internet users. Pornography, obviously, would still be on the Web, just under a different address. Others question how much we should segregate and label the Internet. In addition to the .xxx domain, there is also a debate over whether to inaugurate .gay domains and .god domains. Is it really appropriate to single out homosexual and religious content? What exactly are we trying to protect Internet users from in this case?

As some have pointed out, the .xxx system has been pitched several times during the past decade. But perhaps 25 years from now, people will be remembering this time as the birth of the .xxx sites. (Now, that would be an interesting party to attend.) For now, the final vote on the proposal has been delayed until June.

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