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Give porn its own domain

And keep kids out of its way. 01/10/29 ReleVents hed: Give porn its own domain dek: And keep kids out of harm’s way. by James Mathewson

I went to check on the status of one of my elapsed domain names today. I pulled down the bookmark for InterNic, which is now VeriSign, and the URL was redirected to a hard-core porn site. Apparently, VeriSign sold the internic.com URL to the highest bidder, and the highest bidder happened to be an Internet porn vendor. I couldn’t quit my browser fast enough (I could get fired for going to a porn site, albeit accidentally). It reminds me of the time I tried to contact Al Gore for an interview a couple of years ago by typing in whitehouse.com–another porn site. Porn vendors were among the first to buy popular domains, exploit domain misspellings, and do other URL tricks to drive traffic to their sites. And, contrary to their self-righteous rhetoric, they use these tactics precisely to foil Internet filtering software and to market their products to children.

A news item on our site over the weekend describes an even more devious case than the one above. Ernst & Young’s Moneyopolis venue is an educational game site that teaches sixth- through eighth-graders basic investment principles. Ernst & Young had two sites, one for pay (Moneyopolis.com) and a free site (Moneyopolis.org). But, like most free kid’s sites, the latter was not able to make it in a weak advertising market and Ernst & Young shut it down and let the domain lapse. Of course, porn sites are always on the lookout for new unclaimed domains and one of them–Euro Teen Sluts–snatched it up in order to get the preteen audience that had Moneyopolis.org bookmarked on their machines. It also wanted all the traffic it could get from links posted on affiliate kid’s sites.

As my four-year-old son is just now learning to use a browser, I am very concerned about this phenomenon. In the wake of hundreds of kidsĀ¹ sites folding and leaving their domain names free for the taking, our schools are not safe from an influx in accidental porn viewing, even with all the new filtering laws. While I can clean out my bookmarks and generally prevent my son from viewing porn at home, I have no control of his school Internet use. Porn vendors will stop at nothing to get as much traffic as they can, regardless of age. It seems to me that we need to do more to prevent them from preying on young children.

I certainly don’t advocate censorship, but there is one thing we could all do to make the Net safe for kids. We could start an e-mail campaign to the folks at ICANN to get a new domain just for porn. I’ve vented about the ICANN process elsewhere. They really missed the boat on this one, but there still is room for a new domain if ICANN receives enough feedback on it. If ICANN created the .xxx domain and the government created a new law (backed by enforcement) forbidding blatant porn distribution on .com, .org, .net, .biz, .info, .ws, etc., we could ensure that our kids would rarely if ever see porn on the Web, and we could do it without censorship. Filtering software could be easily set up to forbid access to .xxx sites. This would also ease complaints about how the software currently blocks valuable information on topics like breast cancer awareness or sperm whale biology. It would not block those sites as long as they were not on the .xxx domain. I can give you the e-mail addresses of the board members of ICANN if you’re interested. Let’s make the Net safe for kids.

James Mathewson is editor of ComputerUser magazine and ComputerUser.com.

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