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7. Overheard on the Web

AOL-UK Censorship of Irish Language

Date: 12/23/98 8:37:46 AM CST
From: Sqirlee
To: info(at)

It was bad enough that AOL UK chose to close all 23 Irish message boards but now writers are being threatened with a COS if they stop using IRISH Gaeilge and only use the much newer English language. I applaud the Belfast-News to have a forum that allows free expression of ones thoughts. Also this being Christmas I ask the readers not to speak in Orange or Green colours but rather with the more peaceful backdrop of White. Merry Christmas my friends, Ua Niall


Today, December 22, 1998, the following message was posted by the message board manager, on AOL/UK's "Peace In Ireland" message board, BANNING the use of the Irish language on that board.

"This board is designed for English speakers and Gaelic postings are not allowed. Continuation of this type of posting will result in a warning to the account." "As for posting in Gaelic and then giving a translation in a later posting, we all know that we then rely on the accuracy and fairness of the person giving the translation. make it crystal clear.....posts in Gaelic will be removed without further recourse to the person who posted it.



This ruling came after the SAME unionist poster who caused most of the problems on the Irish Heritage boards, THREATENED to report to AOL, another poster who had posted a phrase in Irish, if that poster did not immediately capitulate to her demand to translate the phrase into English for her.

This has become more than just simple censorship, these actions by America Online are a violation of civil rights and free speech.

Sheila Fahey,

(p.s. several posters have been posting Welsh language phrases as well, but today's action by AOL does not similarly prohibit the use of that language)

The URL for AOL's feedback page is :

This may by now have been jammed with protests, but there is certainly no harm in adding to them. There is some encouraging evidence that such protestrs are effective with AOL: gives the story of how AOL revoked its English-only policy after experiencing the electronic wrath of some Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking customers.

Another e-mailer, who chose to remain anonymous as “Cin”, pointed out that the effectiveness of protest might be enhanced by copying messages to

thus alerting Netscape, currently in the delicate stage of tying up its take-over by AOL, that the value of the new AOL stock it was receiving might be in the hands of some very short-sighted and irresponsible management, exposing it to possible censorship/discrimination litigation.