France publishes official translations for “dark net”

France has published the official translations for English internet-related phrases

France has published the official translations for English internet-related phrases such as “dark net”, “deep web”,  and “user interface”.

In the September 26 edition of the Journal Officiel - the “official gazette” of the French republic, which regularly publishes the legal information of the French Government -  offered a list of recommended official translations for dozens of tech-related English phrases that are often used in French.

“Deep web” can now be officially referred to as “toile profonde” or the “abysse”, while “dark net” should be called “l’Internet clandestin”, reports Le Monde.

French translations of often-used English phrases are always the subject of considerable debate, with critics saying that they often reveal the limits of the authorities’ understanding of such terms, and fail to completely sum up the meaning of a given phrase.

The translations have also been complicated by the fact that these concepts are often misunderstood or confused with each other.

“Deep web” refers to the parts of the internet that are not listed on search engines, and can also refer to private servers that hold private information such as personal details from members of the public.  

“Dark net” or “dark web” refer to the parts of the internet that operate in parallel to the usual internet, and which are not accessible by normal browsers such as Chrome or Firefox. Most dark net surfers access it via the anonymous browser Tor.  

Although not purely a criminal web - for example, some charities use it in countries where their content is at risk of censorship - the latter network has also become known and criticised for its association with criminal activity.

Critics say that these new translations are problematic because they fail to take into account the different uses of, and difference between, the deep web and dark net, and leave the definition too open.

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For example, the definition of “deep web” reads: “The ‘toile profonde’ includes especially the content of certain databases or sites with restricted access” (“la Toile profonde comprend notamment le contenu de certaines bases de données ou de sites à accès restrein”).

This sounds fine, until you realise that the definition could wrongly suggest that perfectly-normal websites are part of the deep web - such as Facebook (which you must log in to use), or the areas of your bank’s website that allow you to log on for online banking.

However, defenders of the French language say that offering official translations gives people a choice about the words they use, and protects the language from encroaching Anglicisation.

Other official translations offered in the paper include “interface utilisateur” for user “interface”, and “portail de messagerie” for “webmail”.

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