The French have banned the words “Facebook” and “Twitter” on TV and radio.
Regulators will only allow the use of the terms if they are in direct relation to a specific news story on the subject – but not in common conversation.
For example, a radio presenter cannot mention his or her Twitter handle on the air, but is permitted to talk about Shaq’s tweet announcing his retirement on Twitter.
That means the announcer can never alert viewers to check out the site’s Facebook or Twitter page for breaking news or additional information.
Instead, they can mention “check us out on the most popular social networking sites!”
According to the French broadcast regulator CSA, uttering “Facebook” or “Twitter” on the air is equivalent to promoting commercial enterprises – obviously a big no-no.
CSA spokesperson Christine Kelly said talking about Twitter and Facebook shows preferential treatment towards those two social networks.
“Why give preference to Facebook, which is worth billions of dollars, when there are many other social networks that are struggling for recognition?
“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'”?
But do the roots of the decree go deeper than simply banning the promotion of commercial enterprises?
To be sure, the French government has been concerned with preserving local culture through regulation for years now.
It has already banned particular words that crept into the culture such as “CD” and “cloud computing.” Instead of allowing the organic adoption of an English word like “cloud computing,” the French spent 18 months coming up with their own term: “informatique en nuage,” which literally means information in the cloud.
Not all the French support this decree as French blogger Benoit Raphael points out that Facebook and Twitter have become “public spaces” of communication with a global reach. As such, banning their mention is ridiculous.
Expat Matthew Fraser adds, “That is precisely why TV and radio networks use them to connect with their audiences. They know where their audiences are – they’re on Facebook and Twitter. It therefore makes sense for TV and radio shows to promote their own Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to connect and dialogue with their audiences.”
Does the ban have staying power?
Only time will tell. As for now, expect a lot of cryptic references to Twitter and Facebook and a good amount of presenters facing public fines for accidently using the two words that have become deeply entrenched all over the globe.