Internet body postpones decision on sex domain

The group that oversees Internet domain sites has again postponed a decision on a controversial ".xxx" domain for sex sites, the head of the organization said yesterday.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, had been expected at its quarterly meeting in Vancouver to approve or kill the domain, which would give pornographic websites their own online neighborhood.

But ICANN decided to delay a vote because some participants had not had enough time to review application materials, ICANN president Paul Twomey said on a conference call with reporters.

"It was impossible to get sufficient time for consideration by the Government Advisory Committee members and therefore the board, the chairman decided to postpone the consideration," Twomey said.

"Within the first quarter of next year is my expectation when it will come back up," he said.

ICANN said in June that it would move ahead with the .xxx domain, but postponed work in August after the United States and several other governments asked it to take more time to solicit input.

Backers have said the domain would allow people to easily avoid sex sites if they don't want to visit them, but conservative groups like the Family Research Council say it would only lead to an increase in online porn and legitimize the industry.

The U.S. government's request put ICANN in an awkward spot.

Though the nonprofit group's staffers and board members hail from across the globe, it operates under an agreement with the United States and frequently faces charges that it allows Washington to "control" the Internet, most recently at a United Nations technology summit in Tunisia last month.

A decision to deny .xxx could give critics further ammunition.

Twomey said that several board members had other reservations about .xxx -- how child-protection features outlined in the agreement would actually be implemented, and if they could be changed in the future, for example.

"There is controversy about this application. It is not a foregone conclusion with the board at all," he said.

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