France's broadcasting regulator, the Conseil Superieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA), announced this week that, henceforth, television and radio broadcasters can no longer mention the words "Facebook" or "Twitter" on air, unless it's within the context of an actual news story. The regulatory ruling stems from an obscure 1992 decree that forbids the promotion of commercial enterprises on news programs.

Some see the ban as Orwellian, while others believe the purpose of a newscast shouldn't be to get pageviews, but rather to provide citizens with an unbiased news source free of corporate interference. Matthew Fraser, an American-born blogger living in France, is in the former camp. He writes that France is "infamous for its oppressive bureaucratic culture of legalistic codes and decrees," and, noting that there was scarcely any reaction in the French media to the ruling, that, from long experience, the French "instinctively know how to integrate the inconveniences and irritations of state regulations into their behavior."

The CSA contends that any on-air allusion to a program's Facebook page or Twitter feed constitutes "clandestine advertising" for the social-network behemoths since they're commercial operations. As CSA spokesperson Christine Kelly (ironically, a former news anchor) explains:

"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?'"

It's hard to argue with Kelly's rationale, especially when it appears that the CSA is siding with the underdogs at the expense of such Goliaths. But since Facebook and Twitter are now effectively "public spaces" of communication with global reach that are indisputably a part of the daily fabric of our lives, isn't that rationale almost beside the point?

Fraser thinks there may be something more insidious at work. Citing the "deeply-rooted animosity in the French psyche towards Anglo-Saxon cultural domination," he thinks the censorship just might be a protectionist jab at our glorious American social networks. Whether or not there's any truth to this speculation, the whole thing does seem absurd from our vantage in the land of the free.

Commentarium (15 Comments)

Jun 04 11 - 5:30pm

muahaha - soon the whole world!

Jun 04 11 - 7:20pm

Orwell would probably think Twitter and Facebook Orwellian.

Jun 05 11 - 12:08pm

Facebook, at least, is definitely one of the most Orwellian creations on the internet. Twitter, I don't really see.

Jun 04 11 - 7:26pm

That's awesome. I hope they do that here in America,cause I'm sick of hearing this shit and I don't give a fuck about either. Hmm,when you think about it,twitter and facebook could be seen as Orwellian for alot of reasons.

Jun 04 11 - 7:27pm

Or,if they did this to fox news here in America,I'm sure none of you would be complaining. And before you say anything,don't get it twisted.

Jun 04 11 - 11:14pm

I agree with France's decision. And, "BitchesAintShit" who are you referring to? I haven't heard a single complaint yet.

Jun 04 11 - 11:46pm

Alright, I'll issue the first complaint then. This is pretty bad, censorship in a classically unfair and unequal society where brutal censorship and persecution is ignored behind a screen of wine and cheese.

Jun 05 11 - 10:35am

burqa, facebook and twitter. Excited about whats next

Jun 05 11 - 12:01pm

Preserving culture while also dealing with vanishing Country borders is a complex issue. Both are noble pursuits, but they often conflict with one another.

Just as almost every Country has restrictions on the importation of U.S. motion picture and television properties, why shouldn't this same rationale apply to online/digital? France is not restricting access to FB and Twitter, but they are attempting to balance these U.S. import/behemoths from permeating French culture (extending from digital, to x-promotion in radio and television).

There is no perfect solution here.

It's interesting that they are trying to undertake some effort to restrain the dumbing down of French life and save their population from the perpetual stream of promoting FB and Twitter as if they are wonderous creatures.

Jun 05 11 - 12:07pm

They're not public forums, they're private forums. Private, monetized forums. It's like hanging out with your friends in a shopping mall. I think it's an important thing to think about (why everyone blindly advertises for facebook and twitter), but not so important it should be legislated against.

Jun 06 11 - 11:12am
Secret Character

I'm going have to agree with this move. Banning the mention of what is effectively a social networking trust (and that's a pretty heavy thing to be). I'm not running to the hills yet because of fb and twitter but they are rampant. Pandoras box is a fitting description. To draw a crude comparison, national security overlapped personal space when TSA pat downs were implemented which after all things considered, is for our own good. France is just taking a minor step in what it sees as protecting some free market principles. Overlapping your right to refer to them in media in a non objective manner? Relax.

Jun 06 11 - 11:43am
Andre Ramos

i just think this Fraser dude is very unhappy in france and is venting on it.

Jun 06 11 - 4:34pm


Jun 07 11 - 3:58am
Finally facing my...

The words Blitzkrieg & Vichy won't feel so lonely now.

Jun 08 11 - 10:55am

I think France is just trying to smooth the way for their own francophone social neetworking site, "TeteLivre.