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Cyber Beat

National Court of the Republic of Estonia on the Web

Cyber Beat Written by Deborah Hirshberg

I never thought that surfing the net would instill such feelings of excitement and adventure. Nor did I expect feeling dumbfounded when I stumbled upon the web site of the National Court of the Republic of Estonia. Finding this site, I not only received a lesson in geography, but also had my first experience of seeing another language printed on the net.

After spending a few minutes reviewing my Rand McNally atlas, I was excited, if not nervous, to see that I had just traveled to a state in the former Soviet Union. Visions of the cold war, spies and espionage, flashed through my mind.

Once my nervousness subsided, I decided to look at the home page in front of me. The home page, and the entire site ( is primarily in text. There is a small, black and white graphic image of a building I assume to be the National Court of the Republic of Estonia. Surprisingly, the home page also offers other URL's to other sites to visit; The World Wide Web Virtual (law) Library and The Whole Internet Catalog. The home page also contains a URL to the decisions by the court. Unfortunately this area is still under construction.

Finally, there is a URL at the site that connects to 35 Estonians who are responsible for the court web site. You can communicate with the site founders by e-mail if you're so inclined. The Web site is available both in English and Estonian.

Since the Estonians are developing a site to review the court's decisions, hopefully in the future we can review the decisions of the Estonian court regarding "free speech" on the Internet. One can only imagine the differences in opinions from that of our courts. Americans opposed to our government intervening in our private lives on the net might benefit from seeing what could be. However, maybe with the end of the cold war, things *might* be different than in the past. Yet, it may be years before "cyber free speech" law suits against, or by, private Estonian citizens appear in Estonian court. After all, I just can't envision citizens of the former Soviet Union having the same kind of access to computers that we Americans now take for granted.

I must say that I have gained a completely different perspective of the Internet and its future after my visit to the National Court of Estonia. The initial nervousness of entering an unknown, and foreign, area on the Internet has passed. Curiosity and anticipation have surfaced in its place.

Although I realize that many of our government agencies and courts are surfacing on the net, it amazes me that a web site from a state of the former Soviet Union has *already* appeared. It certainly confirms that the United States, and the world, is changing very quickly. I'm afraid to say, however, that it may be much quicker than the average American realizes.

I consider myself an intelligent, educated professional, but I have only been indoctrinated to the Net over the last few months. The National Court of the Republic of Estonia has a web site *now*. What are the implications of this fact?

Are we, mankind, ready for global communications through the Internet? I would challenge any notion that we have established the ability to communicate, and understand each other, in person or over the telephone. Yet we are now undertaking the new challenge of communication through the Internet.

Entire books have been written about the differences in the way people communicate and why statements made are often misunderstood. There have been many court cases within the United States where a non- English speaking convicted felon moves for a new trial due to inaccuracies in translation of court proceedings. Even during my observations of on-line chat forums, (and yes, some participation in ), I have seen statements made that could be interpreted in several ways.

Communications via the Internet between governments, if not written carefully, could be disastrous. Just imagine the following scenario: our President sends an e- mail message to a foreign President asking him if he's heard about the latest developments in computer technology, but through errors in translation, it's interpreted that we have accessed his country's top secret computer system?

The above example may be far-fetched, but misinterpretation in communication happens everyday. The presence of the National Court of the Republic of Estonia on the Internet certainly suggests that communication barriers between countries are disappearing. Therefore, now more than ever, it is critical that we make the effort to be accepting of the opinions of others. It is critical that we truly make an effort to listen and end our tendency to react too quickly to what has been said or written.

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