Scary Eire

Facebook’s Opportunist Defence Of Non-English Languages

Given the relative antipathy or indifference of most major internet corporations to global minority languages, or indeed to any languages other than American English, this report from the Guardian newspaper is more than a little ironic:

“Facebook is objecting to the use of English words such as “cookie” and “browser” in a Belgian court order, which has demanded the site stop tracking users without their consent, saying that Belgians may not understand the words.

It forms a small part of Facebook’s appeal in its long-running battle over tracking of non-users of its social network.

Facebook was ordered to stop tracking internet users who do not have accounts with the social network within 24 hours or face fines of up to €250,000 a day. The ruling included the English words “browser” and “cookie” referring to parts of Facebook’s tracking technology.

The social network is appealing the use of English words under Belgian law that dictates rulings must be made in Dutch, French or German from a Belgian court. Facebook is claiming that the ruling should be annulled.

…the strength of Facebook’s argument on this point is questionable. The Dutch for “web browser” is “webbrowser” for instance, while in French it is “browser” or “navigateur”. An internet “cookie”, as opposed to a biscuit, is “cookie” in all three languages.

The case, brought by the Belgian Privacy watchdog in June 2015, accused Facebook of indiscriminately tracking internet users when they visit pages on the site or click “like” or “share”, even if they are not members of the social network. Tracking users without their permission contravenes European privacy law.”

All of which reminds one of the recent attempts by Facebook to force some users with names in the Irish, Scottish or Welsh languages to anglicise or “translate” them into English, supposedly in line with its controversial “real names” policy. Of course if the social networking giant had gone to court in Ireland there would be no such case for appeal since our national language is ghettoised in the education system where the political establishment believes it can safely do no harm. Or good.

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5 comments

    1. True, and other minority language groups, including some trans people. Just ironic to see Facebook appealing on the grounds of language rights, albeit for legalistic reasons.

  1. Just get a passport with your real name in it. FB doesn’t force me to change my name to John or whatever.

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