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?

CNN is reporting that the Justice Department has charged 27 people with online child pornography. The site called “Kiddypics & Kiddyvids” included streaming video of the molestations of seven minors, four of which were under 12 years old; one was under 18 months old. Double-you Tee Eff?!?

Stories like this should explain why I am in favor of Jessica’s Law. Oh, and public flogging for child molesters.

You can read my feelings about pornography here, but in a nutshell, I’m pretty laissez faire as long as porn is created, distributed, and viewed by consenting adults. As soon as you bring in people under the age of 18, they are no longer adults; as soon as you do voyeuristic stuff by filming people without their permission, they are no longer giving consent. Both are illegal, but the molestation of little children is a crime that should be prosecuted every time, and with teeth!

Christ said of those who harmed children, “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” So, are you willing to make this the sentence for people convicted of child molestation? I have to admit, I wouldn’t weep if it were.

Last time I wrote about the intrusive nature of Internet pornography, and some ways that people may monitor their children’s usage of the Internet. In this article, I’d like to explore one way the Internet community may work together on the porn problem.

Most people are familiar with domain names ending in .com. There are also .net, .org, and .edu, but many people aren’t as familiar with .mil, .gov, and .int. These seven top-level domains (TLDs) were created in the 1980s. Anyone may register a new .com, .org, or .net site, but .edu, .gov, .mil, and .int sites are reserved for US schools, US government, US military, and international organizations, respectively. As the Internet extended outside of the United States, new two-letter TLDs were created for each country. With the boom of the Internet in the ’90s, many people saw the need for some new TLDs to be created. In 2001 and 2002, seven new top-level domains came online. Anyone may register .biz, .info, .name, or .pro, but .aero, .coop, and .museum are reserved for aerospace sites, cooperatives, and museums, respectively. For the Internet porn industry, I propose a new TLD: .xxx.

With the .xxx TLD, all adult-level content could have its own specially designated location. Existing porn sites like playboy.com could still exist, but all graphics and streaming audio/video would have to originate from a .xxx site. This would be an easy change for porn sites to implement, and it would permit a new and simple method of porn filtering by enabling people to block any .xxx traffic to their computers. Operating systems like Microsoft Windows or Linux would have to enable this filtering, or it could be a new feature in browsers like Internet Explorer or Netscape. I can envision Internet service providers advertising their services as “family friendly” by blocking .xxx traffic for all their users. Other ISPs could advertise unfiltered Internet access for adults.

No doubt there would be some objections to this change, so let’s look at the possible objections one by one:

You’re preventing me from viewing porn!
Not so. Adults may choose to block or not to block .xxx traffic on their computers. If your ISP has blocked all .xxx traffic, you may switch to another ISP that doesn’t filter it, or request that your ISP not block .xxx traffic to your account.

I won’t be able to go to my favorite .com smut sites any more!
You could still surf to playboy.com, and there would be no noticeable changes as far as you were concerned. But all the adult content would be coming from playboy.xxx or someothersite.xxx. To you, Mr. Pervert, the impact would be negligible.

There shouldn’t be any restriction on my porn.
Our society has already determined that some porn, such as child porn, is illegal to make, distribute and view. But while some porn is legal, it still should not be viewed by minors. After all, adult material is for–well–adults. A respectable bookstore does not sell adult magazines to anyone under 18. Responsible movie theaters which screen NC-17 or X-rated shows do not knowingly sell tickets to anyone under 18. Likewise, porn sites should not grant access to anyone under 18. Many sites have an entry page that requires you to acknowledge that you are 18 or older before going any further. This proposal would be similar, but it would grant parents greater control over their children’s Internet actions.

My civil rights are being infringed!
No, they’re not. You are still able to view smut. Only the location has changed. Quit your whining.

My freedom of speech is being violated!
Viewing porn online has nothing to do with your freedom of speech. Besides, there are only three groups who may restrict your porn access under this proposal: your parents, if you are still a minor; yourself, if you enable filtering on your computer; or your ISP, if it is a “family friendly” service.

Hey! I run a porn site and my freedom of speech is being violated!
Um, no. You’d still be free to host your porn. But you’d have to place all adult material on a .xxx server. Any adult who wanted to view your site would still be able to do so.

I don’t want to lose my .com/.net/.org site!
You don’t have to. You can still keep your site; the only change would be moving the adult material over to your new .xxx domain. The name of the .xxx site doesn’t matter, but to avoid too many conflicts, I would give .com sites priority in registering their domain names under the .xxx domain.

But it will be too difficult to make this change!
Not if your webmaster is even minimally competent.

I don’t want to make this change!
This change will not affect people who wish to view your site, as they would still be able to do so. The main benefactors of this change are parents who wish to prevent their children from getting boobs in the face, and adults who don’t want that either. Are you saying that you want to peddle smut to kids and the unwilling?

There is one major problem with this proposal: how would you enforce it? I am confident there would be sites that would gladly accept this change, since it would permit them to continue in business, and they would have the peace of mind knowing that parents could easily prevent their young and impressionable children from viewing adult material online. I see this as a very responsible attitude. But there would also be sites resisting this change. Since the Internet is a global venue, it isn’t possible for the United States to pass a law telling a site in Holland or Ghana or China what to do. A global organization with global reach would be able to pass and enforce such a law, but I have an inherent distrust of global organizations, so I would prefer a different path.

The Internet community is capable of self-policing as the need arises. You can see this self-policing in action as people report spam abuses to a spammer’s ISP. If the ISP doesn’t take action, then the complaint is bounced up to the Internet provider of that ISP. One of my happiest moments online came when I read a reply from one such provider, telling me they had cut off an offending ISP from the Internet at my request because of repeated spamming and other violations of their terms of service. Something similar could be done by providers who host sites that don’t honor the .xxx convention.

While there are some issues that would take much negotiation and agreement by the parties involved, I believe that creating a .xxx top level domain and the subsequent code changes that would allow people to filter out any traffic from those sites would benefit both parents and people who choose not to view porn. And since there would be no obstacle to people who still want to view porn and those sites that wish to provide it, it would be a win-win situation all around.

Since the big Internet craze has calmed down, many once-profitable sites have seen their incomes drop drastically. Many free services have gone the way of the dodo, either from the sites vanishing or cutting back on services. But one sector of the Internet market has been going strong through this economic downturn: pornography.

The Internet has been a boon for the porn industry. Where people once asked for a brown-paper-wrapped magazine from the top shelf or quietly bought movie tickets while dressed in a hat and overcoat, now people can get all the smut they crave in the privacy of their own homes, thanks to the Internet. Porn sites now offer enough picture galleries and videos on demand to fit every discriminating pervert’s desire. And the market is booming.

I don’t care how well Internet porn is growing, since I don’t visit their sites on purpose. But too often I am assaulted with porn even when I have not asked for it–and I’m not the only one. More and more people are complaining about e-mail spam messages which advertise porn sites. These messages are bad enough with their explicit titles and text, but many porn shillers are using the image capability of many e-mail programs to deliver what I call “boobs in your face.” With the younger generation using computers and accessing the Internet, parents are concerned about their kids getting this sort of spam delivered daily to their e-mail inboxes. And I don’t blame them.

Porn sites are also using sneaky techniques to direct extra eyeballs to them. A common method has been registering domain names very similar to widely used sites. For example, people who mistakenly surf to www.whitehouse.COM instead of www.whitehouse.GOV will access a porn site. Many reputable sites have been buying up their misspelled names and alternate top-level domain names like .com, .net., .org to prevent the smut-peddlers from hijacking their visitors, and to make sure that fumble-fingered folk make it to the right site. Typing in www.gogle.com will take you to the Google search site, as will typing in www.google.net. As little as I admire porn peddlers, I have to give the www.whitehouse.com site credit for being slightly more responsible than many other porn sites. When you access their site, you must now click on a link to get to the smut. This gives the unwitting surfer a chance to realize his or her mistake without seeing anything, but too many other porn sites will instantly slap boobs in your face if you type in the URL. And once they have captured your browser, they will often pop up extra windows linking to other porn sites. These pop-ups are more than annoying, for when you close one of them, they usually generate another dozen or so windows into the wild and wacky. You can think of this as a modern-day Hydra like the one Hercules encountered, with extra windows popping up instead of heads.

To block these pop-up windows I use a little program called Pop-Up Stopper by Panicware, Inc. You can download Pop-Up Stopper for free at www.panicware.com. Not only will it block porn pop-ups, it will also block the annoying pop-up advertisements. The only problem I have had with this program comes from those websites which use JavaScript to open up a small window when a link is clicked. I consider this a very minor inconvenience for a very good service, since Pop-Up Stopper may be turned off and on easily while surfing. And Pop-Up Stopper puts a smile on my face every time I hear the sound of another annoying pop-up being blocked.

Because porn is so easily accessible on the Internet, it is incredibly simple for an inquisitive child to get hooked at a very early age. If you have a computer with Internet access in the house and you don’t want your kids to look at porn, then you must take steps to guard them. So what can a concerned parent do to keep children safe from Internet porn? Quite a few things, really. The most important thing is closely monitoring what children are doing on the computer. This can be as easy as sitting with the children and watching what they do, or installing some sort of “nanny” software to supervise, up to more complicated steps such as monitoring the computer logs to see trends in Internet traffic, or configuring your own home network for maximum content control and monitoring. With the current prices of computers and software and the high availability of broadband connections to the Internet like cable or DSL, it is becoming easier and cheaper to configure a home network. I have residential DSL for an always-on connection to the Internet, a designated server computer to manage my Internet traffic, and two computers that my wife and I use. Our server uses Microsoft Windows 2000 Server as the operating system, with Microsoft’s Internet Security & Acceleration software. This is probably overkill for most home networks, but it serves me well. This software configuration creates a good firewall and web cache server for my network. In addition to logging all Internet traffic, I have configured my ISA server to block known porn sites. So if I were to go to www.playboy.com, instead of ogling naked women I’d get a notification that the porn site has been blocked by the server.

While most people don’t have the means to install multi-thousand-dollar software on their home networks, there are many more reasonable options available that can provide monitoring and filtering services for a small home environment. Any broadband Internet connection needs a firewall to provide security from people wanting to hack into your home network, some Internet sharing software to allow everyone on the network to surf over that one connection, and software to monitor and filter traffic. With these things in place, a parent may prevent children from intentionally surfing to known porn sites and monitor Internet traffic to see who is going where. If keeping your young children away from porn is your goal, this will require constant and consistent vigilance because close monitoring of Internet usage is the best way of seeing what the children are doing. This is true whether you are reviewing the server logs or sitting next to your children as they play on the computer.

My next article will delve into a different approach to porn and what can be done by the Internet community.