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.xxx?Stuart Lawley, Internet entrepreneur, has won the right to start selling registrations to a new domain devoted to pornographic content, .xxx. Currently, there are 7 million adult domains and as Lawley continues to sell another half a million, revenues of $30m a year are expected.

About pornography, Lawley himself claims to be “neutral” and he refuses to comment on the suggestion that exploitation of vulnerable women in the industry is endemic. However, mounting fears about the creation of an Internet ‘red-light district’ may further exploit vulnerable women in the industry. Campaigner and academic, Gail Dines think .xxx is a disaster because “the only thing that can happen is that pornography will increase.”

Critics of the idea argue that because there is no requirement for providers of explicit content to use the ‘top level domain’, sexually explicit material will still be commonplace in other domains, making it ineffectual at restricting access.

There is also concern that the existence of .xxx will lead to legislation making its use mandatory for sexually explicit material, leading to legal conflicts over the definition of “sexually explicit”, free speech rights, and jurisdiction.

According to figures released earlier this year by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, FHM saw its circulation fall by 15.2% year-on-year to a monthly average of 231,235. Sales of lads’ mags Zoo, Loaded and Nuts all dropped by margins of between 20 and 30% from early 2009 to later in the year. But at the same time, magazines such as Maxim are becoming solely internet publications.

According to a global Internet content-filtering company N2H2, the number of adult-related Internet pages increased from 14 million in 1998 to roughly 260 million in 2003, the Times of India reports.

The Home Office commissioned a report in February stating that lads’ magazines such as Zoo and Nuts should be made top shelf and have age restrictions on sale in order to stop the “drip, drip” media landscape that is sexualising boys and girls at an increasingly early age. However the 130-page report points to the fact that it is easily accessible pornography which is influencing the behaviour of children. Statistics published in the report showed that a quarter of all search-engine requests are porn-related, and 1.5% of all the websites in existence are pornographic.

It is also unlikely that the .xxx domain can compel all other ‘adult’ businesses from transferring to the premium .xxx service, due to the expensive costs. Meanwhle, .com porn sites will continue to propagate unwanted spam; children viewing the content will be unavoidable. It will take years for a complete conversion; so in the meantime expect the porn industry to boom.