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01 April 2007

Verisimilitude Provocation Personal



I want a .pony domain

I read that the ICANN has yet again had to fend off an attempt to set up a .xxx gTLD.

As a parent I am keenly interested in protecting my children's actions online and often discuss with my SO how to manage their access when they start to reach the age when they spend more time online. Although I am far more worried about them exposing their own identities, than about being exposed to others, the latter is still a concern. There are certainly sites out there that I cannot now un-see, however much I wish I could. No doubt these sites and others will cause confusion, anxiety, and harm to tender intellects.

Like a lot of parenting, I expect there will be a fair bit of playing by ear. So when the time comes I expect it will involve some combination of: close supervision; logging and blocking proxy servers; whitelisting and blacklisting; an implicit understanding of Bayes' theorem and the potential for false positives and negatives; some serious conversations and constant reassurance; and lastly acceptance of the fact that I'm ultimately not going to be able to stop a determined and curious teenager from finding what they want online.

Exactly what criteria I use to categorise a given site as unsuitable is still undecided. I expect to outsource to some suitably liberal classification agency of some sort. All I want, at least initially, is to block the worst material from accidental discovery, and log any access to only mildly dodgy stuff.

Anyway I can tell you right now who I wont be outsourcing this stuff to, and that is the government. Either my own government, or the US government, I have no reason to believe they will provide classifications that are compatible with my wishes. The various proposals to set up a .xxx domain also fall into the category of government-based classification, even if it is through an unwilling ICANN.

I won't be outsourcing my classification needs to the Secure Computing corporation either. Not with a false positive rate of 99.5%.

The arguments against using the gTLDs as a classification scheme are eloquently set out in RFC 3675 and there's not much more I can add, except to ponder why PICS has languished for so long. A .xxx gTLD would be a juggernaut of laws and regulations, and a magnet for protracted legal disputes. Why can't we just save ourselves the effort and instead do whatever it takes to get PICS off the ground? Or at least look at the business case?

I don't know whether the folks from ICM Registry — responsible for the most recent .xxx proposal — included in their submission an assessment of PICS. Given that a technical solution to the problem of site classification is available, one would have to wonder why it is apparently not suitable for ICM Registry? The onus is on them to explain why that technical solution is not appropriate, and this one is.

Because it seems to me that the .xxx domains are simply proposals to solve a small set classification requirements with a specific technical solution, where a different solution to a larger set of requirements already exists. From a systems engineering point of view at least, it makes no sense.

Not that stops folks like ICM Registry who stand to make a ton of money in the short term, registering all those new domains. Sorry guys, looks like you'll have to try a different sales pitch.


Posted by
2007-04-01 11:37:59 -0500

You, and RFC 3675, make an eloquent case against a mandatory .xxx TLD.

However, I still stand by what I said about .xxx being a good idea for voluntary use.