(Editor’s note: in 1997 a computer dealer, Microbytes of Point-Claire, Que., was threatened with fines for limited use of French on its website. The citation came under Québec’s Bill 101, the Charter Of The French Language that mandated predominant use of English in schools, business, public administration and signage. At the time complaints averaged 4,000 a year. The Microbytes dispute was resolved without litigation. On May 5, 2011 Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan interviewed Morty Grauer, CEO of the company, on his experience with internet regulation. Following is a transcription of his remarks)
We have sixteen stores in Québec. We’ve been in business since 1992. We sell computers, computer accessories, custom building of computers. In 1996, as the internet became more popular, we decided to run a website.
The English website was ready first, so we launched that. In 1997 we received a letter from the OLF, the Office Québécois de la Langue Française. They basically told us to take down our English website, that it was illegal. Everything in Québec had to be in French.
They had gumption, telling me I had to shut down my English website until the French website was ready. It was outrageous. I felt they had no right putting their nose into the internet. It said “www,” that’s “world wide web.” It had nothing to do with the Government of Québec.
I refused. I would not take down the English website. I told them, if you are going to fine me, then fine me and I will fight you in court. That was provoking the OLF into doing something.
I felt we had freedom of speech on the web, that I could basically post whatever I wanted in whatever language I chose, and I wanted my day in court to fight them. What was my point? As a free society, we have a right to put on the internet our content in whatever language we want without government control. We don’t need Big Brother watching over you on the internet.
Government had no right. I mean, we do have freedom of speech in Canada. It is not up to the government to tell me what to do.
The internet was new. Like anything new and unknown, they had to meddle in it. They had to put in their two cents, they had to regulate. How could there be a medium out there over which they had absolutely no control? I mean, isn’t that part of government’s philosophy?
It was like George Orwell, 1984. I mean, I’m not paranoid or anything, but they’re always watching.