Isabella Pierangeli Borletti Information Protection. The former was used in the arrest of a blogger whose posts criticised the government’s economic policy during the financial crisis ; the latter was used to delete online posts and to punish individuals who initiated online campaigns for a consumer boycott 17.
To establish a globally open society, states and leaders cannot retain control over information ; a self-regulating mechanism must be established and social awareness generated through democratic and open processes.
The right to freedom of expression is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 :
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression ; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and idea through any media and regardless frontiers”.
This provision includes the rights to seek and impart information and ideas ; to inform and be informed. The right to freedom of expression is similarly protected by Article 19 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and under generally applicable norms of International Human Rights Law. Where web access is hampered, these rights are violated. State censorship is one of the most basic forms of content constraint, but the underrepresentation of minority languages also constitutes a restriction on these rights. As a democratic new media, the internet should be an environment that protects human rights.
Beyond using human rights law to expand participation in new media, the Internet can protect human rights by providing access to information. Improved communication can also contribute to the organization of enforcement activities, and to mobilizing campaigns for change. On the other hand, with greater opportunity increased responsibility : the internet 17 UN Doc. A/65/284, par. 76, 11 August 2010. The report also stresses that emergency or national security laws are often used to justify restrictions on citizen journalists’ expression of views or dissemination of information via the internet, often on the basis of protecting vaguely defined national interests or public order. It is especially in this regard that on February 27, 2004, the UN Special Rapporteur, the Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, sent an urgent appeal to the Syrian government regarding tperson for distributing articles by email. The Syrian authorities were quoted as saying the articles were “detrimental to the reputation and security of the nation” and “full of ideas and views opposed to the system of Government of Syria”.
Isabella Pierangeli Borletti is not only a great tool for democratisation, but may also be used for hate and abuse. Neverthless, freedom of expression must be maintained.
The last issue is that of privacy as a human right. The right to privacy entered the arena of internationally recognised and protected human rights in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which prohibits arbitrary interference with “privacy, family, home or correspondence”, as well as Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which uses slightly different language. The Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Individuals Regarding Automatic Processing of Personal Data (1981), also known as Convention 108, remains to this day the only international document that is binding on every country including non-members ; and many cases heard by the European Court of Human Rights relate to the right to privacy.
Storage of personal data also falls under the rubric of privacy protection ;
the un Human Rights Committee has specified that whether information is gathered and held by public authorities or private parties, everyone should have the right to ascertain whether information about them is stored, what specific information is stored and for what purpose (General Comment, Article 17, Civil and Political Rights Covenant) 18.
MULTILINGUALISM IN ACTION A language is considered threatened if it has few users and a weak political status, and when it is no longer transmitted through formal education 19.
Languages are disappearing faster than ever before ; increasing internet use may contribute to the loss of “minority languages” and thus of cultural/ linguistic diversity.
As of December 2009, the top ten languages on the internet were English (495.8 million users), Chinese (407.7 million users), Spanish (139.million users), Japanese (96.0 million users), Portuguese (77.6 million users), German (72.3 million users), Arabic (60.3 million users), French 18 See also the judgment of the European Court on Human Rights on the case Rotaru v.
Romania (May 2000).
19 T. Skutnabb-Kangas, Linguistic Human Rights in Education : Western Hypocrisy in European and Global Language, paper presented during the 5th plenary session of the 5th International Congress of Hungarian Studies.
Isabella Pierangeli Borletti (57.0 million users), Russian (45.3 million users) and Korean (37.5 million users). Equal online linguistic representation is essential given the Internet’s increasing role as the primary information source, knowledge repository, communication interface and business medium.
Enabling people to communicate online in their own language and script has great importance in providing diverse populations with a presence in the global information economy 20. However, ten years after the adoption of the multilingual architectural model 21, minority languages and scripts are more threatened than ever. Multilingualism is even less of a force online than it is in the “real world” 22. While the internet is no longer monolingual, few of the world’s close to 7000 languages have a significant internet presence 23. The internet began as a predominantly monolingual medium in which English was essentially the only language ;
despite some increase in diversity, English remains its dominant language for correspondence and communication 24.
it has made advances to accommodate less dominant languages and scripts, but even if technical limitations impeding online language diversity have been largely resolved, online presence is still an issue 25. The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages states that, “regional or minority languages” means languages that are : 1. traditionally used within a given territory of a State by nationals of that 20 See in this book : Michal Oustinoff, The Economy of Languages.
21 The first document that provides a global architecture for online multilingualism dates to 1996 during an IAB (Internet Architecture Board) workshop at the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) in Marina del Rey, California.
22 It is owrth mentioning the three categories of languages in cyberspace as defined by M. Diki-Kidiri : (I) working languages used to communicate ; (II) languages objects which are only mentioned or studied ; and (III) absent languages that are never used nor mentioned on internet.
23 See in this book : Daniel Prado, Language Presence in the Real World and Cyberspace.
24 P. Lacour, A. Freitas, A. Bnl, F. Eyraud, D. Zambon, Translation and the New Digital Commons, http://lodel.irevues.inist.fr/tralogy/index.php id=25 WSIS-05/TUNIS/DOC/7-E, November 18, 2005, Article 14, “recognize[s] that in addition to building ICT infrastructure, there should be adequate emphasis on developing human capacity and creating ICT applications and digital content in local language, where appropriate, so as to ensure a comprehensive approach to building a global Information Society”. In Article 32, states commit “to promote the inclusion of all peoples in the Information Society through the development and use of local and/or indigenous languages in ICTs” and “[to] continue [their] efforts to protect and promote cultural diversity, as well as cultural identities, within the Information Society”.
Isabella Pierangeli Borletti State who form a group numerically smaller than the rest of the State’s population ; 2. and different from the official language(s) of that State.
In a few cases, these languages are afforded some form of state support by domestic legislation or national constitution 26. But if official and minority languages cohabit in certain states, online cohabitation poses a greater challenge given the fact that a few “big” languages and English in particular hold a dominant position, that transforms most languages into minorities.
However, not all underrepresented languages may be considered minorities. First, no official internet language has yet been identified or legally recognised. Second, categories of minority languages must be established ;
it would be misleading, for example, to place Aramaic, a language spoken by 2 million people, on the same level as Wu, spoken by over 77 million Chinese, even if they have similar online presence.
The Consequences of a Restricted Set of Characters on the Web Online multilingualism is important for : 1. economic efficiency and productivity ; 2. the establishment of a democratic society ; 3. the promotion of education ; and 4. the respect and promotion of human rights 27. It is therefore an essential means for collapsing the “linguistic divide” that accompanies the digital divide.
Accepting the dominance of certain languages on the Web has far-reaching consequences, not only for other languages and their marginalised speakers, but for Internet development itself. Attaining a critical mass of content in a given language is an essential precondition for attracting Internet users ; inadequate online linguistic representation inhibits many from using the Internet even if physical access is available. As much of the world’s communication and business migrates to the Internet, ensuring straightforward access for the next billions of users is critical.
The linguistic divide is now an unavoidable disadvantage for much of the world’s population. Unconvincing shortcuts, like the use of Esperanto or 26 See in this book : Evgeny Kuzmin, Linguistic Policies to Counter Languages Marginalization.
27 Internet Society, Multilingualism and the Internet (Briefing Paper), May 14, 2009.
http://www.isoc.org/internet/issues/docs/multilingual-internet-issues_20080408.pdf Isabella Pierangeli Borletti Latin as global lingua franca, are unrealistic solutions that could further complicate the issues.
Increasing multilingualism and promoting cultural diversity online is thus a multifaceted problem requiring a multiplicity of considerations to attain the objective of making the internet accessible to all.
PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF MULTILINGUALISM IN THE “REAL WORLD” Any serious exploration of the right to multilingualism online necessitates asking whether multilingualism is considered a human right outside of the virtual world – otherwise put, in the “real word”.
Due to political sensitivities that are interwoven into power structures, linguistic and human rights are seldom presented together for discussion.
Still, a look at the abundant production of relevant legal texts since the second half of the twentieth century 28 shows that most States recognize the rights of linguistic minorities and accept the charge of protecting the right of persons to their own language, a trend that largely stems from the widespread belief that guaranteeing linguistic particularism assures a population’s linguistic and cultural identity.
Promotion and Protection of Linguistic Diversity at the International Level While domestic legislation has tended to tolerate (at best) or disregard (at worst) cultural diversity, international law and International Human Right Laws have evolved towards inclusivity. International Human Rights Law plays an important role in setting standards for linguistic rights, as well as providing a normative framework for developing principles of 28 As pointed out by F. De Varennes in To Speak or Not to Speak. The Right of Persons Belonging to Linguistic Minorities, a working paper prepared for the UN Sub-Committee on the Rights of Minorities, March 21, 1997, http://www.unesco.org, international treaties and conventions with provisions related to the use of minority languages have been adopted since the 16th century. The 1516 Treaty of Perpetual Union between the King of France and the Helvetic State contained a provision identifying those who would receive certain benefits, such as the “Swiss who speak no language but German”.
Isabella Pierangeli Borletti democratic governance and multicultural policies aimed at managing potential ethno-linguistic conflict.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 2(1), provides that “Everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as […] language”. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 27, contains the most farreaching binding protection for linguistic minority rights, stating that “In those States in which […] linguistic minorities exists, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the rights, in community with the other members of their group, […] to use their own language”. Article 2(2) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights puts language on par with race, color, sex, and religion.
Within the framework of the Council of Europe, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the rights of persons belonging to regional and minority language groups have been addressed in multilateral treaties and conventions.
Both the Council of Europe’s European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (1998) and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (1998) contain monitoring bodies that seem to be working effectively at their attempts to stretch states’ willingness to follow more than minimal requirements.