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.xxx refusal was a stitch-up: Official

Category : Domain names, Internet governance ยท by May 11th, 2006

I’ve just got off the phone from an ICANN press conference with CEO Paul Twomey regarding the decision by ICANN to refuse the .xxx registry application.

And it has done little but confirm my already solid belief that the whole refusal was a poorly choreographed exit from a politically difficult situation.

Politically difficult for who? For the US government – thanks to a large pressure group of right-wing Christians with close ties to the US administration.

So what? A very small group of people in one country, with little understanding of the issues, has managed to bypass all the organisations and mechanisms in place and determine the future of the Internet (that global medium used by hundreds of millions of people).

Should I care? If you use the Internet (which you do because otherwise you couldn’t read this) then yes you do because the organisation that everyone has put their trust in to expand and oversee the future of the Internet for the good of mankind has shown that it can be manipulated 100 percent by one government for short-term political ends.

Mr Twomey denied this interference outright. Instead, he explained, there had been a large amount of public opinion against it; a big pornographer (Larry Flynt) didn’t like it [jpg]; and the UK government sent a letter saying it may hold ICANN responsible if anything went wrong with .xxx.


Correction: I’ve been asked to clarify what Twomey said about the UK government letter since the letter was used a main part of Twomey’s explanation as to why ICANN rejected the registry.

What Twomey said (just prior to the questions) was: “When it came to national laws relating to pornography there was going to be such a diversity there was some concern, according to the contract in front of them,  how could this be complied with.

“This concern was compounded, at least in some people’s minds, by the communcation from the United Kingdom government which made it clear that the UK government would consider that if the applicant registry could not force compliance then it expected ICANN to intervene and force compliance.”

What the letter says is: “It will be important for the integrity of ICANN’s position as final approving authority for the dot.xxx domain name, to be seen as able to intervene promptly and effectively if for any reason failure on the part of ICM in any of these fundamental safeguards becomes apparent.”


Claims that the decision was made because of US government interference were “unfounded and ignorant”, Twomey claimed. When it was pointed out the EU itself had stated this (spokesman for Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for information society and media, said: “We see here a first clear case of political interference in ICANN”), Twomey explained that was “ill-founded and surprising”.

ICM Registry’s request for the ICANN Board to vote on .xxx was apparently given the highest priority. But that respect appeared to diminish when no less than five letters were received in little more than a week before the vote on 10 May – all of which were subsequently used in Twomey’s justification for denying .xxx, and all of which arrived after ICM Registry’s request.

Why didn’t ICANN delay the vote – just as it has three times already? What are we to make of the literally hundreds of people on the ICANN public forum decrying .xxx? How did so many people know that .xxx was going to a vote so late in the day? And how come they are all from America?

What is this 48-hour delay in any of the Board members being allowed to talk publicly about the decision?

All this and more was asked at the press conference, and you can hear Paul Twomey’s response here, in a 26 minute 14 seconds excerpt [MP3, 10.5MB] of all the questions asked over .xxx.

[audio:http://www.kierenmccarthy.co.uk/_attachments/1950772/twomey-press-conference-xxx-11may06.mp3]
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