SAN FRANCISCO—Friday morning, during the concluding public meeting of the San Francisco ICANN conference, the board of directors voted 9-3 to approve the .XXX sTLD. The decision came after a last ditch effort by industry leaders to influence the board to reject the application by ICM Registry that has been before ICANN in one form or another for the past seven years. The decision also conflicts with the opposition of ICANN's Government Advisory Council (GAC), which issued a letter earlier this week that reiterated its opposition to the .XXX sTLD.
Before the vote was taken, one board member, George Sadowski made a lengthy comment during which he said he would vote against the approval of .XXX for two main reasons. First, because ICM Registry had failed to show sufficient proof of worldwide support by the adult community, and also because he feared that the string could lead to a fragmanetation of the internet and lead to an erosion of free speech rights for people around the world.
If it is approved, he said, it would be a victory of "process over goals and means over ends." His comments were met with sustained applause within the room.
Katim Touray also spoke and expressed his opposition to passage, argiuing that approving it would damage ICANN's ongoing relationship with governments around the world.
Bertrand de la Chapelle also spoke, and expressed his support for the application, saying he prefers to have a .XXX that has a controlled mechanism attached to it rather than a future adult gTLD that had no controlled mechanism. His comments also were greeted with applause.
Erika Mann also spoke, and expressed her opinion that it makes sense to take the risk of passing .XXX now. Raymond A. Plzak spoke and reflected Mann's opinion of the vote before them.
Kuo-Wei Wu then spoke, and said that he would vote no. Steve Crocker then spoke, referencing, as all others did, the toll the decision had taken on all of the board members, and expressed the great weight they had all given to the opinion of the GAC and all effected members.
Rita Rodin Johnston then spoke, saying she felt stuck between a rock and a hard place, and noted that in 2007 she had voted against .XXX. Four years later, at today's vote, she said it was a hard decision because it was a lose-lose decision for the board. Both the sTLD application and IRP processes were flawed, she said, but her responsibility was to the process rather than her personal feelings. Her remakrs also elicited applause.
The decision to approve .XXX was also met with applause in the meeting hall by members of the ICANN community, the vast majority of whom are registry owners and others who are waiting for the gTLD process to move forward so that their applications for TLDs can also move forward, and who generally have seen the years-long controversy over .XXX as an obstacle to forward momentum.
“Of course we are disappointed but we are not surprised by the ICANN Board’s decision. As voiced in concerns by speakers at this very conference, the ICANN Board has dangerously undervalued the input from governments worldwide,” said FSC executive director Diane Duke. “Worse, they have disregarded overwhelming outpouring of opposition from the adult entertainment industry—the supposed sponsorship community—dismissing the interests of free speech on the internet.”
FSC Board chair Jeffrey Douglas also commented, saying, “Until now we have been forced to work within the constraints of the ICANN process. FSC is now free to explore all options and we intend to do just that with input from, and in the interest of, our members. We will help the industry fully understand the risks and ramifications of participating in .XXX."
Douglas went on to comment that, “As regrettable as the vote was, the involvement of FSC and industry leaders in this process has and will continue to provide a positive face of the adult entertainment community to leaders of the online community worldwide.”
The FSC also indicated that the battle against .XXX is not over and that in the coming days and weeks it will provide information about .XXX and alternatives for the adult entertainment industry.