Porn window opens but…

By JEVANS NYABIAGE jnyabiage@ke.nationmedia.com Posted  Monday, April 25 2011 at 18:00

Kenya will filter and block the internet’s newly-formed, highly controversial cyber “red-light district” after a global agency governing the web approved .xxx suffix for explicit content websites.

With the approval of the controversial domain, it means that children can easily access explicit content in what is likely to turn parents into slaves in putting checks on what their children watch or read online.

And the government is not taking this lightly. Information and Communications Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo says Kenya will introduce measures to block all Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) ending in .xxx.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), in early March, approved the creation of “.xxx” domain for pornographic websites.

“We can’t hold parents at ransom in monitoring what their children watch or read online. We will go ahead to block it, though it is controversial as this is where huge underground money is made,” Dr Ndemo said. “This also goes against our morals and culture.”

Underground business

The distribution of adult content is illegal in Kenya and many other countries. Kenya becomes the first country in Africa to take a stand over the domains. India has also blocked the websites.

“We are getting into a very complex-mind boggling period in the internet history. We recognise this is a major underground business but we have to protect our children,” said the PS.

Religious groups and even those who play in this underground business have taken issue with the assignation, and nations are taking a stand, as well. The new domains will also cost as much as $50 (Sh40,000) more per year than traditional domains.

Mr Alex Gakuru, a consumer activist and also chair of the ICT Consumers Association says: “Whereas offers domain names registration and Internet hosting services, I wouldn’t register or host a “.xxx” to avoid getting into legal murky waters – given that the domain name sponsors (i.e. icmregistry.xxx) explicitly declare their sponsored domain name’s purpose.”

Even though parents will have an easier time blocking access to adult content, faith-based advocates maintain that the number of such websites will multiply on the internet because adult site operators can simply occupy both the .com and .xxx suffix. The .xxx domains are aimed squarely at those with adult or sexually explicit websites.

Dot triple-x will be managed by the online address registering company ICM Registry, which has long fought for a legitimate domain set aside for sexually explicit material.

Reports indicate that ICM Registry has been receiving requests for the new domain and claims that more than 250,000 have already applied to reserve domains.

ICANN took more than two years to allow separate .xxx extensions for adult sites. Several internet activists and cyber law experts believed that the new suffix in fact would mean recognition for the industry and would enable better policing by parents and employers. The domain names are likely to be available in the second quarter of 2011.

The proponents of the domain say it will clearly define web address for adult entertainment, further out of the reach of minors and as free as possible from fraud or computer viruses.

Use of the domain name is voluntary and is designed to shut out child porn and incorporate heightened security barriers, making it harder for children to stumble on sexual content online.

Though the price for changing suffixes is relatively negligible for the estimated billion-dollar industry, it is still seven times more expensive than purchasing the average “.com” suffix that is commonly used by established adult websites.

The worry for explicit content companies has been that governments with strict internet policies will altogether block access to the domain – something which India, Saudi Arabia and now Kenya have vowed to do.

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