LOS ANGELES—On May 17, 2004, Joan Irvine, the executive director of the Adult Sites Against Child Pornography organization posted the following comment to the ICANN website during a public comment period on the application by ICM Registry to run a sponsored top-level domain.

I repost it along with subsequent communications between members of the ASACP AC in order to add some information to the historical account of this period and the actions taken (or not taken) by people and organizations who—whether they want to admit it or not—were instrumental in the eventual passage of .XXX. I think ASACP was and is a valuable organization, but after reading this it may come as no surprise that it was not that long after these events transpired that I left the ASACP AC.  

* To: stld-rfp-xxx@xxxxxxxxx

* Subject: ICM

* From: Joanasacp@xxxxxxx

* Date: Mon, 17 May 2004 03:52:05 -0400

ASACP (asacp.org) is the organization that helps the adult site industry make a difference in the battle against child pornography. ASACP recognizes sexual child abuse as a heinous crime committed against children. As a major deterrent to such abuse, ASACP was formed in 1996 and is dedicated to eliminating child pornography from the Internet. ASACP also provides a self-regulatory vehicle for its membership through a Code of Ethics that promotes the protection of children through responsible, professional business practices. Over 4,700 adult sites have joined our cause in raising awareness about this subject.

ASACP investigates and assists the F.B.I. and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in enforcing anti-child pornography laws against thousands of child pornography sites. To date, ASACP has received and reviewed over 100,000 reports of suspect child pornography, of which more than 25,000 valid child pornography sites have been reported to the F.B.I and NCMEC.

ASACP has been in negotiations with the International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR) and ICM for it to serve as a hotline for reviewing reports of suspected child pornography and to carry out the secondary monitoring of .xxx sites for child pornography.

I applaud IFFOR and ICM Registry’s initiative to integrate tools and technology of finding and reporting child pornography websites into their proposed registry application to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

I also support the online adult industry developing their own credible business practices in conjunction with other impacted stakeholders and support the IFFOR initiative to create a line of communication between the adult industry and the global community.

Sincerely,

Joan Irvine
Executive Director
ASACP

Note that Irvine uses the first person “I” in the correspondence. In it, she says that ASACP was in negotiations with ICM regarding a hotline, and uses the word “supports” to describe her opinion of IFFOR.

When I saw that letter, I was upset. As a member of ASACP’s Advisory Council at the time, I was unaware of the positions and actions she was describing. I did not know by what authority she had sent that letter, and I complained to her about it afterwards. But that’s all I did. I should have quit on the spot, but I did not. I thought that .XXX would not be approved by ICANN. It had rejected an earlier effort by ICM to get a .XXX gTLD and I thought they were done with it. I was unaware and naive about what was going on behind the scenes.

The following June, during a teleconference by the ICANN Board, a vote was taken that allowed ICANN to proceed in negotiations with ICM. It was June 1, to be exact, a day and a vote that become the fulcrum of the debate surrounding the independent review panel held in 2009 that eventually led to the approval in 2011 by ICANN of .XXX. Supporters thought ICANN approved .XXX on that day; the Board, as proven by its 2007 vote to reject .XXX did not.

On June 2, 2005, I sent an email to the ASACP AC that read, “Wow, .xxx heating up. The Advisory Council never did vote on this, did we?”

Joan replied the same day, “It was discussed at a AC meeting. I will look at the notes from that meeting. The ASACP mission is about child protection. Just as ASACP is working with the P2P industry efforts for child protection (p2ppatrol.org under cphotline.org) and sending Red Flag Reports to Yahoo and godaddy (not for the public yet), if .xxx was approved ASACP would speak with them about using the ASACP more mainstream hotline (cphotline.org). Also, if IFFOR was contributing to various child protection organizations, ASACP should be part of that mix. We will be applying for other grants, also.

“What concerns me,” she added, “is Connor’s statement about the AC. All AC members are under a NDA; thus, he should not have knowledge of such details.”

I have no idea whether Joan was imitating that I had told Connor anything, but she probably was. I do not recall whether or not I did, to tell you the truth, but I’m usually pretty good about those things. I’ll ask Connor. But we are not well more than five years removed from this chapter, so any restrictions about talking about the actual history of that time are long since removed. And it’s a good thing, because in the aftermath of Joan decision to leave ASACP for IFFOR, some people are trying to rewrite it.

I replied to Joan and the AC the same day. The AC meeting being referred to had taken place Feb. 18, 2004. “A discussion is not the same as a vote. I remember the discussion, and my memory tells me we decided we would not vote on taking a position on .xxx, sometime after which an ASACP press release was issued saying that it supports .xxx. (I was very upset at the time, ,and told Joan, but took no further action, to my discredit.) If accurate, I’m not sure that timeline of events is consistent with what Joan is saying here, that ‘… if .xxx was approved, ASACP would speak with them…’ or comments from ICM registry in their press release saying they have an arrangement with ASACP in place.

“I’m not trying to cause trouble, but this is a situation that could adversely affect ASACP if consistent and correct information is not given out. I also have to say that making a decision to support something as controversial and permanent as .xxx without first having the AC vote on it puts the members of the AC in a potentially very compromising position in which they are accused of actions for which they are not responsible.

“I for one would like to know how, when and by whom the decision by ASACP to support .xxx was made. Further, because the AC is under a NDA, I believe the right thing for ASACP to do is to clarify publicly whether a vote by the AC was taken or not. Perhaps that can be done in Joan’s [GFY] post.

“I welcome any comments and stress that I would never make this a bid deal if I didn’t think the situation warranted it.

“Tom”

One member of the AC, who is no longer in the industry so I will not name the person, replied that s/he recalled that “we decided that it was not in our mission to ‘approve’ or ‘disapprove’ such things. If the registry went through and they wanted to give ASACP money, it would be accepted, but we were not willing to take an official position either way.”

I do not recall that, obviously, and would never have voted to approve such a position.

Joan sent the follow-up notes from the Feb. 18, 2004 AC meeting. I do not recall who made them, and I do not believe the AC ever subsequently approved them, as other boards do of their minutes.

About this subject, they read, under the heading ‘.xxx – Hotline Potential.’ “ASACP reviewed their agreement with ICM to negotiate to be their hotline for CP reports when ICM received ICANN approval. I was asked to redo the letter and remove the names of the sponsors as it might indicate that they support .xxx by their association with ASACP.

“Although some of the AC Members’ companies may have supported ICM, ASACP must remain neutral and not have ‘mission creep.’ There was much discussion on this topic. Some of the potential issues of .xxx are more FSC-related.

“ICM provided a list of their supporters and contacts for the AC to review. Some of these may be good contacts for ASACP.”

Now that I read it again, it is clear that the “I” must be Joan. This is the complete transcript provided for that meeting regarding .xxx, and there is no mention of a vote. I also have absolutely no memory of anyone mentioning that ICM had provided ASACP  a list of their supporters, but it was a long time ago. Still, such a cozy relationship sounds inappropriate to me now as it clearly did then. Knowing what we do now, however, it all falls into place.

There is more about this to come, in particular the unfortunate situation in which ASACP was used twice in the independent review panel by ICM as proof of support by the industry. Just the facts…