French Radio And Television Newscasters Say 'Au Revoir' To Facebook And Twitter

from the paging-george-carlin dept

Say what you will about France (go ahead! -- that's why we have comment threads!), but it's never been afraid to look reality right in the eye and attempt to legislate around it. The French government seems to profoundly misunderstand the internet, an ignorance which has resulted in some of the worst legislation ever passed and some of the most wrongheaded judicial decisions ever handed down.

Here's a brief recap of France's legislative/judicial prowess:
I could go on and on (and on -- I haven't even made it through the first page of search results yet) but you get the idea. If there's an internet-related issue that could possibly be handled badly, the French government has always been there to do just that.

Here's the latest in a long line of intellectually stunted decrees, via Business Insider:
This week we learned that France’s broadcasting regulator had just issued another decree: henceforth, hosts of television and radio programmes must refrain from uttering the words “Facebook” and “Twitter” on the air.

Thus, a French news anchor is not allowed to say to viewers: “For more information on this breaking story, follow us on Twitter.” Nor is any television or radio presenter allowed to mention a programme or network Facebook page. If Facebook or Twitter make the news, they can be mentioned on a strictly “information” basis. But no urging the audience to connect via Facebook or Twitter to learn more, ask questions, give their opinions, and so on.
[We'll pause briefly here for a collective rest-of-the-civilized-world interpretive dance known familiarly as the "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot." Additional exclamation points, question marks and incredulous expletives may be added as needed.]

No, wait! There's a reason for this! Ecoute:
The CSA maintained that any on-air mention of a programme’s Facebook page or Twitter feed constitutes ”clandestine advertising” for these social networks because they are commercial operations. In a word, French television and radio programmes cannot be seen to be promoting Facebook and Twitter as commercial brands.

“Why give preference to Facebook, which is worth billions of dollars, when there are many other social networks that are struggling for recognition,” CSA spokesperson Christine Kelly 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?’”
Really? Twitter and Facebook have competitors? I know there are alternatives out there, but nothing I would consider a "competitor" (which would presume some sort of actual "competition"). Myspace? Seriously? Maybe a half-decade ago (or longer). As for Twitter, who else is out there? Tumblr (Blogging for people who don't like writing.™)? whatihadforbreakfast.com?

So, if it isn't a protectionist policy propping up development of Le Facebeauque, what is it? Business Insider's Matthew Fraser has a theory:
The obvious answer is that regulators like to impose rules, if only to make themselves feel important. That reflex is particularly in evidence in a heavily regulated society like France with an omnipresent state...

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.
Without a better theory in my back pocket, I'm inclined to agree. And like any policy that ignores two of the biggest rules of the internet (and sometimes, real life itself), the Law of Unintended Consequences and the Streisand Effect, it will be interesting to see what sort of backlash develops among the French themselves. The rest of the world hardly needs any more ammunition.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    xenomancer (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 7:36am

    Challenge Accepted

    "Say what you will about France"

    Ok, France: The only sovereign nation to lose its own revolution in a manner deemed unconscionably hilarious.

    This sentiment is unfortunately paralleled in the manner by which their current ruling body is constantly kicking themselves in their teeth.

     

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  2.  
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    Lisa Westveld (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 7:46am

    France is also one of the few countries that won't tolerate "foreign words" to become part of the French language. Rarely will a foreign word become popular enough to be more or less adopted by the French language but in general, they just create their own language...
    While every country is allowed to define it's own rules and laws, these kinds of rules just make them appear to be a bunch of retarded barbarians...

     

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  3.  
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    Atkray (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 8:40am

    France

    If you are ever in Salt Lake City there is a little tavern called Duffy's, very much like Cheers. Behind the bar over the cash register is a sign, it says

    F*** the F***ing French

     

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  4.  
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    mike allen (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 8:41am

    funny the BBC in the UK well known for not allowing advertising has on almost show follow us on twitter or go to our face book page. so I agree this is the French protecting the now dying French language.grandir et à rejoindre le monde

     

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  5.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 8:41am

    Re:

    these kinds of rules just make them appear to be a bunch of retarded barbarians...

    Actually I think it is the opposite... it makes them appear to be a bunch of stereotypical "snooty Frenchmen" who think far too highly of themselves as the arbiters of culture.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 8:44am

    Maybe the French should give innovation a try

    Instead of worrying about what the rest of the world is doing and being jealous of their success, why don't the French give innovation a shot and maybe people will be talking about a French company.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    DogBreath, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 8:57am

    Re: Re:

    Simple fix, France can save their national culture and start their own sites: LaVisageLivre.com (TheFaceBook.com) and LeCrétin.com (TheTwit.com).

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    AJ, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:00am

    Victory!?

    Did France just surrender to Facebook and Twitter in the same day? Wow...

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:04am

    In France, TV and Radio have no ads at all during the day.

    I think it's stupid to forbid them to use the word twitter and facebook though since it's not really advertising.

    But yeah, you cannot expect much from a government put in place by Paul Desmarais himself.

     

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  10.  
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    Jason, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:07am

    Obviously...

    “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?’”

    Obviously Pandora has paid the obligatory fee to stay on the air.

     

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  11.  
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    Duke, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:08am

    Not just Twitter/Facebook

    Reading around on this, it seems that this isn't anything new - the regulator is just reminding news organisations of what is already illegal; i.e. news programs can't have "product placement". This sort of thing is fairly common in parts of Europe (although the UK went the other way this year, and started allowing some product placement).

    Basically, impartial news programs shouldn't be using brand names (whether Twitter, Facebook, or Hoover, Sellotape -that used to be a big issue in the UK a while back) when discussing stories not related to them.

    Obviously, in this case, the issue is the lack of competition - but that doesn't mean the law should be ignored... just makes it a bit silly.

     

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  12.  
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    RobShaver (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:10am

    So if you ...

    don't consider them competitors then nobody should? Remember when MySpace was bigger than Facebook?

    I may agree with much of what you said but you really shot a big hole in your argument with that paragraph and certainly reduced your pundit-creditability in my eyes.

    By the way, I use identi.ca in addition to Twitter ... so there! (stamps foot for emphasis)

     

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  13.  
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    Jake, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:13am

    Re: Not just Twitter/Facebook

    That was my first guess as well, actually; an over-literal interpretation of a vaguely-worded law.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Olgilvy, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:25am

    We're the idiots

    Seems reasonable to me. We're the idiots for allowing our news to become advertising.

    It is free advertising for wealthy private companies. They should buy ads. I don't see newscasters mention TechDirt in every damn story. I do see them mention Facebook all day and night. For free. Because everyone's doing it.

    A while back, every NPR story mentioned that they were talking to someone at a Starbucks. It was probably because lazy reporters kept going to the coffee shop for "real person" reactions. It came off sounding like every story was an ad for Starbucks.

    Kudos to the French for drawing a line between content and advertising. A journalistic mention of a brand is fine if it is newsworthy. Otherwise, just say "check out our website for more information."

     

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  15.  
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    Carl, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:33am

    Much as I agree with the sentiment of the story....

    @Maybe the French should give innovation a try

    Lets not tar all the French with the same brush. They are one of the leading developers of Humanoid commercial robots (www.aldebaran-robotics.com/en) and have many leading edge scientific programmes.

    Their governement, however, does make some..... erm, interesting legislation but hey I am British and would say that.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    DerFuzzy, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:35am

    Works for me....

    Regardless of the real, and totally MORONIC idea behind the reason for this ban.. I am ALL FOR THE BAN!

    I will be so glad when those 2 sites are burnished off the internet for good. Waste of bandwidth all the way around.

    Dumb reason(s)... GREAT IDEA! All other businesses should take a lesson here..

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:37am

    Re: Re:

    That also explains why there was so much AIDS tainted blood in France, there wasn't a French test for AIDS.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Brian, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:43am

    Re: We're the idiots

    What's the difference between mentioning Twitter or Facebook during the newscast and running commercials with paid advertising (or displaying ads in newspapers)? If anything I would be more concerned about news sources not running negative stories about big money advertisers then whether they mention Twitter or Facebook.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:49am

    Tim, you might want to be a little more careful about the links you use. Most people don't expect Techdirt to be linking to porn sites.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    LegitTroll (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:57am

    Re: Victory!?

    You have it backwards. They are taking a stand against something that hasn't invaded. Had Zuckerberg shown up with a small contingent of nerdy programmers their would be a white flag hanging from Sarkozy's office.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Call me Al, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 9:58am

    They have a history of this

    This isn't all that surprising when you consider France's history. They sometimes make the RIAA et al look sensible.

    As you noted France is often upset by the encroachment of Anglo-Saxon cultures and language and they do their level best to try and stem the tide. Examples include creating the word "l'ordinateur" because they didn't want people using 'le computer' and frequent campaigns against the usage of "le weekend".

    They get so upset about their language that the Adademie Francaise is tasked with protecting it and are very stringent and careful to keep it pure and untainted by foreign influence. What amuses me is that this contributes to the language's decline.

    English is so successful precisely because it is a mongrel language. We shamelessly steal words from everywhere and are always adapting and messing around with the meaning of the ones we already have. This makes it accessible and versatile and therefore more attractive as a language. Its one of the important selling points for it and that sale seems to be going rather well.

    That they are extending this wrong headed approach online should surprise no one.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 10:13am

    Please?

    Less Tim, more Mike. The way Tim writes makes me now want to skip whatever item he is writing about.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 10:30am

    Re: Please?

    C'est dommage. Tant pis pour vous.

     

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  24.  
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    Wiggs (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 10:33am

    Re: Obviously...

    I had exactly this same thought as I was reading through the article.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    William, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 10:42am

    Re: Please?

    +1 to this. He also fails to research his articles or he'd know there are plenty of alternatives to both fb and twitter, especially if you're not in the US.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    SAWK, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 11:04am

    Re:

    Came here to say this. A NSFW tag would be nice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    LegitTroll (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 11:27am

    Re: Re: Victory!?

    Note to Mike: NEED EDIT BUTTON

     

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  28.  
    icon
    Ron Rezendes (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 11:36am

    Re: Please?

    "Less Tim, more Mike.The way Tim writes makes me now want to skip whatever item he is writing about."

    Hey moron, your browser allows YOU to make that choice for YOURSELF!! The effing story is essentially about idiots exactly like you and the French gov't, who somehow seem to want to make decisions for other people regardless of how those other people feel about the subject!

    If you don't like Tim's articles or writing, then quit reading them and commenting on them - DUH!

    The amount of stupidity of both the French gov't and the comment you made has just sent me over my recommended daily allowance of "stupid drivel to listen to". Great, now I have to turn off the internet until tomorrow and it's not even noon here on the left coast - thanks a lot, jackwagon!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    trish, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 12:17pm

    larousse

    i think the french should get on fixing their language, we don't even have a word for 'like'; it's the same as 'love'. I live in quebec, obviously in this decision we would have to defer to the motherland.

     

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  30.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 12:33pm

    Please god, I don't want to be french anymore.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Jason, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Please?

    While we're at it, would you mind volunteering to comment less? That'd be great.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    Lisa Westveld (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    About the porn link...

    Well, Mole Station Nursery, Molestation Nursery... One less space, yet such a huge difference. :-)
    Mole Station Nursery is actually located at http://www.molerivernursery.com/ but still uses Mole Station in it's description. :-)
    There are of course many other site names that might appear different when you remove the space. :-) For example:
    Experts Exchange, Therapist Finder, PowerGen Italia, Pen Island, Who Represents... Those could also be read as: Expert Sex Change, The Rapist Finder, Power Genitalia, Penis Land, Whore Presents...
    Yeah, dumb domain names. :-) Maybe that's why the French prefer their own language instead.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    JMT, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 2:49pm

    Re: Please?

    Who is this horrible person "FORCING" you to read the articles not written by Mike? Perhaps you should take your issues up with them instead of bothering us.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    BearGriz72 (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 5:08pm

    Dammit!

    "[We'll pause briefly here for a collective rest-of-the-civilized-world interpretive dance known familiarly as the "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot." Additional exclamation points, question marks and incredulous expletives may be added as needed.]"

    ROFLMAO
    /spittake

     

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  35.  
    icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 5:13pm

    Re: Re: Please?

    +1 to this. He also fails to research his articles or he'd know there are plenty of alternatives to both fb and twitter, especially if you're not in the US.

    You're right. I failed to mention these options:

    Academia.edu
    Advogato
    aNobii
    aSmallWorld
    AsianAvenue
    Athlinks
    Audimated.com
    Avata rs United
    Badoo
    Bebo
    Bigadda
    Biip.no
    BlackPlanet
    Blauk
    Blogster
    Bolt.com
    Buzznet
    CafeMom
    Cak e Financial
    Care2
    CaringBridge
    Cellufun
    Classmates.com
    Cloob
    CouchSurfing
    CozyCot
    Cross.tv
    Cr unchyroll
    Cyworld
    DailyBooth
    DailyStrength
    Decayenne
    delicious
    deviantART
    Disaboom
    Dol2day
    DontStayIn
    Draugiem.lv
    douban
    Elftown
    Epernicus
    Eons.com
    Experience Project
    Exploroo
    Faceparty
    Faces.com
    Fetlife
    FilmAffinity
    FledgeWing
    Flixster
    Flickr
    Focus. com
    Folkdirect
    Fotki
    Fotolog
    Foursquare
    Friends Reunited
    Friendster
    Frühstückstreff
    Fubar
    Gaia Online
    GamerDNA
    Gather.com
    Gays.com
    Geni.com
    Gogoyoko
    Goodreads
    Goodwizz
    Google Buzz
    GovLoop
    Grono.net
    Habbo
    hi5
    Hospitality Club
    Hotlist
    HR.com
    Hub Culture
    Hyves
    Ibibo
    Identi.ca
    Indaba Music
    IRC-Galleria
    italki.com
    InterNations
    Itsmy
    iWiW
    Jaiku
    kaioo
    Kaixin001
    Kiwibox
    Lafang o
    LaiBhaari
    Last.fm
    LibraryThing
    Lifeknot
    LinkedIn
    LinkExpats
    Listography
    LiveJournal
    Livem ocha
    LunarStorm
    MEETin
    Meetup.com
    Meettheboss
    Mixi
    mobikade
    MocoSpace
    MOG
    MouthShut.com
    Mu bi (website)
    Multiply
    Muxlim
    MyAnimeList
    MyHeritage
    MyLife
    My Opera
    Myspace
    myYearbook
    Nasza-klasa.pl
    Netlog
    Nettby
    Nexopia
    NGO Post
    Ning
    Odnoklassniki
    OneClimate
    OneWorldTV
    Open Diary
    Orkut
    OUTeverywhere
    Passportstamp
    Partyflock
    Pingsta
    Plaxo
    Playahead
    Playlist.com
    Plu rk
    Present.ly
    Qapacity
    Quechup
    Qzone
    Raptr
    Ravelry
    Renren
    ResearchGate
    ReverbNation.com
    Ry ze
    ScienceStage
    Scispace.net
    ShareTheMusic
    Shelfari
    Skyrock
    Social_Life_(website)
    SocialVibe
    Sonico.com
    Stickam
    StudiVZ
    StumbleUpon
    Tagged
    TalentTrove
    Talkbiznow
    Taltopia
    Taringa!
    Tea chStreet
    TermWiki
    TravBuddy.com
    Travellerspoint
    tribe.net
    Trombi.com
    Tuenti
    Tumblr
    Vkontakte
    Vampirefreaks.com
    Viadeo
    Virb
    Vox
    Wakoopa
    Wattpad
    Wasabi
    WAYN
    WebBiographies
    WeeWorld
    We OurFamily
    Wer-kennt-wen
    weRead
    Windows Live Spaces
    WiserEarth
    WriteAPrisoner.com
    Xanga
    XING
    Xt3
    Yammer
    Yelp, Inc.
    Youmeo
    Zoo.gr
    Zooppa

    The largest of these is Qzone with 480 million members, almost all of them Chinese. Now, with all that research behind me, it's now clear that this word dump completely invalidates the premise of this post.

    I'll be sure to add a retraction that points out your helpful advice and possibly run a full correction, noting that this latest in French legislation is fully justified. With these FB and Twitter-shilling newscasters properly muzzled, it's only a matter of time before these two preferred networks fall into disuse and eventual "where-are-they-now" status.

    I hope that this also enlightens our other readers who I may have mislead with my snarky bashing of Myspace and Twitter. You have my humblest apologies for my ill-informed attempt to bash France without any pertinent information to back up the claims I facetiously made.

    I also applaud William for taking the lead in regards to Google's new +1 feature. I'm am also certain that the heady days of pressing FB's omnipresent "Like" button are well behind us.

    [Note: to the commenter above this fray ("The way time writes makes me now want to skip whatever item he is writing about") -- you may want to skip reading this because I'm writing it. My apologies for placing my afterthought at the end of this extra-long comment, rather than before it, but as I stated, it was an afterthought.]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    IronM@sk, Jun 7th, 2011 @ 3:56am

    Blogging for people who don't like writing.™

    Sweet! I just signed up. When does my first post appear?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Howard Waller, Jun 7th, 2011 @ 8:44am

    The French Viewpoint

    The froggies detest what they feel is Anglo Saxon domination simply because they feel innately inferior to the Anglo Saxon culture. Who can blame them THEY ARE!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    John85851 (profile), Jun 8th, 2011 @ 3:25pm

    It's a catch-22

    These companies want to be where the people are, so they build a page on Facebook and Twitter, but when they send people there, they give the sites more traffic.
    Should private sites like Facebook and Twitter get this kind of free advertising and traffic? No, but it's like telling people to visit your shop in the mall. You're trying to send people to your shop, but you're giving the mall free advertising.

    But I agree with the last conclusion that this is a way for the French to stop intrusion by Americans. I'm sure the government would allow companies to promote the French version of Facebook.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2011 @ 5:30pm

    "If there's an internet-related issue that could possibly be handled badly, the French government has always been there to do just that."
    Or a military related one...

    In Canada (a country with two official languages, English and French) the province of Quebec (which is predominantly French) makes it ILLEGAL to list English without French, English before French, or English that is any bigger than half the size of the French on any signage in a place of business, failure too comply can result in a loss of your business license. It should be noted this applies even in private areas like offices or storage rooms and on things like garbage cans for staff use. From this we learn something we already know, French are very arrogant.

    They may be arrogant but they do make good food, which is why we keep them around. They should give up (something they are also good at doing) on government, run away (another skill) from France and make food worldwide. Good money to be made there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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