A raucous debate has been raging at a forum for website owners and developers over the inclusion of sites which are said to be involved in child pornography at one of the internet's oldest and largest directories.

Called DMOZ or the open directory project, it is hosted and administered by Netscape Communication Corporation of Mountain View, California., Which is owned by America Online, Inc., (AOL), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. Under a strategic agreement with Google, which was expanded late last year to include a $ 1 billion investment by Google in AOL, the Google Directory is based on DMOZ.

The sites which have sparked the controversy are located in the adult section of the DMOZ directory and the adult section of the Google Directory, which mirrors DMOZ listings. It was ignited on January 26, 2006 when an individual named "dvduval" asked, "did you know cherryboys.com has 62 listings on DMOZ? Advertised as 'a yummy batch of gay boy sites'." Asked why he was highlighting this, he responded, "Because I am against child pornography and because DMOZ does not deserve to be used as Google's directory if they are supporting illegal activities on their site."

NOTE: The complete debate is located at the URL http://forums.digitalpoint.com/showthread.php?t=53712

For some DMOZ editors the debate over the inclusion of child pornography websites and forums in the directory hinges on US constitutional guarantees of free speech and the broader notion that censorship runs counter to the internet's founding principles. Ironically, Google and other major trans-national internet corporations are being criticized for participating in state-sponsored censorship in China and other countries.

Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and other companies were hauled before Congress to defend their role in helping China prevent its citizens from freely accessing the internet. Microsoft has shut down controversial blogs at the request of the Chinese government, while Google's Chinese version of its search engine does not provide links to content deemed unacceptable by the government. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao this week defended the controls saying, "With the development of the Internet, there has been some harmful and illegal content."

The Chinese defense is at the core of the debate raging at the Digital Point internet forum for webmasters since January 26. While not seeking police intervention, critics of the inclusion of alleged child pornography sites in the adult sections of directory demand self censorship by DMOZ and its editors.

The negative criticism of DMOZ appears to be having an impact. A February 15, 2005 post to the Digital Point debate by an individual identified as "Genie" states: "The normal procedure in the ODP (DMOZ) is to make moves after debate. … But in this case there was concern that delay caused by the debate was in itself a problem… The category is due for a move to Test. Because of the way the software works the category move won't go through immediately. By the time it does the Admins should be ready with their statement. "

However, some participants in the debate see the move as inadequate. An individual identified as "Gworld" argues, "Why after so much debate, the best solution possible is just to move it to 'test' until a 'solution' can be found? The REAL solution is very simple and obvious to any reasonable person . Sites that deal with pedophilia as medical condition or crime should be moved to normal DMOZ under proper category and everything else under adult which in many ways implies pedophilia as accepted sexual practice must be deleted. "

Whether or not these efforts to bring the debate to an end and prevent it from leaving the confines of webmasters and DMOZ editors is questionable. Issues of responsibility within the DMOZ hierarchy and at Netscape, AOL, Time-Warner and Google remain unanswered. Without a proper, public airing of the issue, there remains a risk the sites will creep back into the DMOZ and Google Directories.

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