MSU buys 4 .xxx domain names to protect university integrity

MSU is known for its Spartans, academics and — porn?

Not if officials have anything to do with it.

The university now owns four .xxx domain names in an attempt to protect branding initiatives, university spokesman Kent Cassella said.

The off-color websites — without any X-rated content on them — include, and two other similar variations. Cassella said they were purchased for about $100 each and that price will be paid on an annual basis for renewal.

“We’ve done evaluation and those are the ones that are mainly in line of branding initiatives, and we want to protect those,” he said.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which is responsible for maintaining Internet addresses such as .com and .edu, allowed businesses and universities to purchase .xxx domains in October 2011 before opening them to the public on Dec. 6, 2011.

The Detroit Free Press reported in December 2011 several Michigan schools had purchased the seedy-sounding domains to protect their image, and MSU officials had chosen to “monitor the situation” before buying any of their own. Twenty-one such domains are owned by the University of Michigan, and Central Michigan University has at least three.

A domain name lookup found MSU’s four .xxx domains were created days later, on Dec. 12, with Cassella said MSU has to draw the line somewhere and protect the images that are the most important. Beyond the .xxx domains, if someone online infringes on MSU’s image, he said officials would take steps against any offenders.

David Gift, vice provost for libraries, computing and technology, said in an email it would be a waste of time and money to buy up every single MSU-related domain to prevent a person from creating a porn site.

“Websites hoping to take advantage of the MSU name or other identities have literally dozens of combinations and spellings to use,” he said. “We will never register enough to avoid this type of situation.”

Even as universities buy up such domains, Gift said online pornographers are not likely to use the name because they rely on people stumbling onto their sites anyway.

English junior Sarah Austin said she’s glad officials are looking out for the university’s interests rather than having her school associated with a porn site.

“Purchasing those websites would help protect our image, because we’re known for more than that,” she said.

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