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France bans the words 'Facebook' and 'Twitter' from TV and radio

The ban is in line with a nearly 20-year-old law that says mentioning such services is an act of advertising. It has been criticised as ridiculous in some quarters.

Image: Pete Goding/Pete Goding/Press Association Image

FRANCE HAS BANNED the use of the words ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’ from being spoken on radio or television unless they are part of a news story in accordance with an old law.

Huffington Post reports that the ban goes back to a 1992 decree (French) that says mentioning such services by name is an act of advertising and therefore saying the names of the social networking giants constitutes preferential treatment.

Explaining the decision the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel or CSA insisted in a statement that the French government is just upholding its laws:

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?’

ZD Net reports on the difficulties this will cause given how widely established Facebook and Twitter are in everyday life in France and across the world.

Paris based writer Matthew Fraser has criticised the decision, asking “what possibly could have possessed the French regulator to impose such a ridiculous rule” in a blog post.

Tech Crunch reports that now instead of referring to social networking sites by their names, broadcasters will have to get round the rules by saying things like: “Find us on social networking sites”, or else direct viewers and listeners to other pages and hope they will know where to go.

It adds that the French government is unlikely to be #winning with this latest regulation.

It’s not the first time that France has tried to prevent the invasion of English words into the French language with Wired reporting a 2003 story in which the government banned the use of the word ‘email’ in all correspondence in state ministries, instead opting for the French term ‘courriel’.

Experts criticised that decision at the time saying that it was “artificial and doesn’t reflect reality”.

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Hugh O'Connell

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