By Susan Falvella-Garraty
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The world’s largest internet provider, America Online, said this week that it had restored the Irish Heritage Forum site after shutting it down just before Christmas.
"We had to take the forum down to clean up the profanity and vulgarity that was there," said AOL spokesman Jim Whitney from the company’s headquarters outside of Washington, D.C.
Allegations of a conspiracy against Irish nationalists by the internet server were prompted by the decision to close the site, which features chat areas, research, language genealogy and culture. The closure was initially highlighted in a report in the Irish People.
Some nationalist subscribers to AOL have linked an aggressive campaign by America Online to attract business in the British market to the company’s closing of the web sites.
"That’s ridiculous," Whitney said.
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According to Whitney, the area of the site that highlighted politics had become a microcosm of the sectarian strife in Northern Ireland.
Nationalists and unionists had challenged each other on-line at the site on occasion. The verbal assaults had left the site littered with "epithets and phrases a parent might not want their children to be exposed to," Whitney said.
"There were violations of terms of service that prompted complaints on the use of profanity and hate speech," he added.
Whitney said that America Online never had plans to permanently shut down the site.
"It was reopened and we plan to keep it up and running," he said.
The closure of the site left more than the politically active frustrated. Those trying to simply deliver Christmas greetings on-line via the chat areas were unable to do so.
But if it’s a Happy New Year salutation you want to send, go ahead and click your mouse.