Facebook, Twitter Banned on French TV

    June 3, 2011
    Josh Wolford

You thought some the rules lording over communication here in the States were infuriatingly pedantic, get a load of this:

France’s broadcasting regulation organization, the CSA, has banned the casual use of the words “Facebook” and “Twitter” on the air. The just issued decree cites an article from another decree issued in 1992.

Paris-based writer Matthew Fraser notes that “the French are notorious for their obsession with maddening, micro-meddling rules and regulations,” and that the country is “infamous for its oppressive bureaucratic culture of legalistic codes and decrees. The term ‘French bureaucracy’ is shorthand for the worst imaginable Kafkaesque nightmare.”

Well, this kind of proves that.

The only time radio or television broadcasters can say “Facebook” or “Twitter” now is if the two companies make the news. For example, “Social Network Facebook involved in scandal” would technically be permitted. But things like “Follow us on Twitter” are strictly prohibited. This new regulation takes away a powerful tool that news organizations uses to connect with viewers.

Imagine if the FCC told CNN that they couldn’t ask users to follow them on Twitter? They would go absolutely berserk. But according to Fraser, this new regulation came and went with little media coverage or outrage, save a few French bloggers.

What is the reasoning behind this seemingly ridiculous new regulation? A CSA spokesperson had this to say:

Why give preference to Facebook, which is worth billions of dollars, when there are many other social networks that are struggling for recognition,” she said. “This would be a distortion of competition. If we allow Facebook and Twitter to be cited on air, it’s opening a Pandora’s Box — other social networks will complain to us saying, ‘why not us?

So it’s about fairness? Neutrality in journalism? Money?

Facebook and Twitter are so much a part of everyday life around the world, that it seems disingenuous to say that other lesser social networks deserve equal mention. They simply aren’t as important, and therefore aren’t discussed nearly as much. In order for a news organization to ask viewers to “like” them on Facebook, should they also be forced to tell viewers to follow them on MySpace? It’s ludicrous.

Fraser has a different explanation, one that the CSA would obviously never cop to:

But there is another, more plausible, explanation. Facebook and Twitter are, of course, American social networks. In France, they are regarded — at least implicitly — as symbols of Anglo-Saxon global dominance — along with Apple, MTV, McDonald’s, Hollywood, Disneyland, and other cultural juggernauts. That there is a deeply-rooted animosity in the French psyche towards Anglo-Saxon cultural domination cannot be disputed; indeed, it has been documented and analysed for decades. Sometimes this cultural resentment finds expression in French regulations and laws, frequently described, and often denounced, by foreigners as protectionism.

Yeah, I guess Americans do give the French a pretty hard time sometimes. And I can understand a little bit of hostility towards American cultural intrusion. But banning “Facebook” and “Twitter?” That’s just burying your head in the sand.