Online service drops policy of English-only AOL apologizes to Spanish-speaking users

July 26, 1996|By SEATTLE TIMES

SEATTLE -- America Online won't be "English Only" Online.

The computer online service that claims 6 million customers revoked its English-only policy this week after experiencing the electronic wrath of some Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking customers.

AOL apologized to its customers for any inconvenience it had caused. It also will now encourage multilingual postings, a spokeswoman said.

The online service angered many customers who use Spanish and Portuguese with a policy on its Grandstand sports message boards that said only messages in English could be posted.

"Posts not made in English will be deleted without notice," the message said. AOL says it added the English-only notice six months ago.

The messages appear in electronic bulletin boards that cover a variety of sports. Customers use them to trade information about events and team members.

AOL changed its English requirement after realizing what a heated issue it had become among its Spanish-speaking customers, said Pat McGraw, AOL's director of media relations.

AOL enacted the English-only policy because it didn't have the resources to monitor messages for vulgarity, harassment or pornography in other languages, McGraw said.

But AOL posted the policy only in the information areas most used by Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking customers. It did not appear in sports bulletin boards used by customers who read and write French, German, Italian or Greek, said Marcelo Rossetti, 33, a soccer fan who monitors the bulletin boards daily.

Rossetti, who was born in Argentina and now lives in Burlingame, Calif., became incensed when he read the English-only policy last week.

The policy referred its customers back to the AOL terms of agreement that new users receive when signing up for the service. Rossetti said he agrees with the terms that prohibit vulgarity, but that the terms say nothing about using only English.

Rossetti began his own one-man battle last week with the online giant by immediately sending off 63 electronic messages to online newspapers and other organizations.

Rossetti also said that AOL began deleting messages in English that he and others posted protesting the English-only policy, which prompted him to contact the American Civil Liberties Union.

Pub Date: 7/26/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.