BoingBoing is linking to a bill being proposed by Democrat Senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Max Baucus of Montana that would require adult web sites to use an .xxx domain. From the news report:

The senators acknowledged the bill was a first step and would not completely protect children from Internet porn.

Many of the companies that comprise the $12 billion Internet porn industry operate offshore and would be difficult to regulate, they said.

“We are not saying this is going to work 100 percent of the time in every single case,” Pryor said. “We do think that this would be a dramatic step in the right direction.”

I agree that it would be a good step in the right direction. I wrote in favor of an .xxx domain in a two part comment back in August 2003. While it would be difficult to get all the porn distributors behind this, I think it could be done with a large enough group of concerned people coming together. You can see this happening already with DNS-based spam domain lists like SpamHaus.

Adult industry representatives say the bill if enacted would have a chilling effect on free speech.

“This is constitutionally protected speech — we’re not talking about illegal content,” said Tom Hymes, a spokesman for the Free Speech Coalition, the trade association representing the adult entertainment industry.

If this act were to pass, pornographers would still be free to publish their porn, but there would be a specific place for their porn to be hosted. This would be the equivalent of local zoning laws preventing a strip club from opening between a church and a grade school. Do zoning laws have a “chilling effect on free speech”?

The proposal is an ineffective approach to the problem since many of the adult Web sites are based outside the country and the civil penalties would not apply to them, he said.

Hymes said the companies would find ways to circumvent the new designation, including moving their operations offshore.

This objection to the bill is valid, but again, the Internet community could react by compiling and publishing the domains and IPs that choose not to move their porn content to .xxx domains.

The industry would incur costs from new registration fees and losses from existing marketing campaigns on .com and .biz domains, Hymes said, but he did not think it would get that far.

If my proposed solution is taken, the porn industry could keep its non-xxx domains as long as the content, particularly the graphical content, is hosted on .xxx domains. Yes, this means the industry would incur the cost of buying new .xxx domains–but an industry that makes $12 billion a year can afford the chump change necessary to register an extra domain. Of all the complaints raised against the bill, this last is by far the silliest.

Here is the primary reason why the porn industry doesn’t want anything to do with .xxx domains:

If the bill passes, software could be developed to block the .xxx domain from Internet searches, Baucus said.

Jason Schultz of lawgeek.net commented on this proposed bill at BoingBoing and supported the above reason:

“Talk about a misguided attempt at Internet zoning… also has severe implications for filtering as I’d imagine every .xxx domain would be on the universal black list.”

But if parents and businesses wanted to block every .xxx domain, they would be able to do so. The porn people would be able to exercise their freedom of speech by posting their content on the .xxx domains, and anyone else who so desired could exercise their freedom to block .xxx domains. The people who don’t want to block these domains wouldn’t have to, but those who do would have a much easier way to do it. This would be a godsend to parents who don’t want their children to stumble across porn sites by accident, or who wish to actively block their kids from gaining access to porn.

Why does the porn industry demand that its smut be made easily accessible to children?

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