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France restricts mentions of Twitter and Facebook on the airwaves

Radio and television broadcasters aren't allowed to mention the big social networks on the air unless they are covering a story about one of them

French regulators have reportedly forbidden broadcasters to direct their audiences to Twitter or Facebook.

According to a ruling this week, French radio and television broadcasters aren't allowed to mention either of the big social networks on the air unless they are covering a story about the specific network, Atlantic Wire said.

As a Business Insider article explained, citing expat blogger Matthew Fraser, if Facebook or Twitter make the news, they can be mentioned on a strictly “information” basis. But broadcasters are not allowed to urge their audiences to connect via Facebook or Twitter to learn more, ask questions, give their opinions, and all the rest of the things that broadcasters and media outlets do with social networking.

Bloggers in the U.S. and France have ridiculed the move.

The San Francisco-based website TechCrunch described the decision as an "extremely absurd move," predicting that "judging by the ongoing popularity of these social networks the CSA [Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel, the French entity that regulates broadcasting] won’t be #winning for very much longer."

Newser writer John Johnson labeled it the "weird rule of the week."

According to France24, "Bloggers in France were no kinder."

On Monday, French blog La Social Newsroom railed against the CSA for “giving Americans yet another reason to laugh at France”.

Benoit Raphael, the blog's author, wrote that the CSA failed to understand that Twitter and Facebook are, above else, public spaces where millions of French people freely share information.

Many news websites, like Rue89 and, lamented what they consider the CSA’s outmoded views of contemporary news culture, and the potential for interactivity that Facebook and Twitter can afford traditional broadcasters and viewers.

On Monday, French blog La Social Newsroom railed against the CSA for “giving Americans yet another reason to laugh at France."

Those wacky French, you might say. What were they thinking? Well, the reasoning goes like this: citing a 1992 law that prohibits surreptitious advertising, the ruling is meant to keep networks from giving an unfair advantage to the two already very popular services, Atlantic Wire said. Christine Kelly, the spokesperson for the CSA said in a statement:

"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?' ”

She added, according to CBS News, "We encourage the use of social networks," she said. "There is no question of blocking."

Fraser has a possible explanation for the baffling move:

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 analyzed for decades.

All of this is reminiscent of another august French body, the Academie Francaise, and its decidedly interesting rules that are meant to protect the French language. For the best part of its 376 years, the Academie Francaise has fought to keep French as pure as it can, a February article in the Los Angeles Times reported. In recent years, this has meant that the council's 40 members, those peer-selected individuals that are known as "the immortals," have been waging war on what the Academie sees as the pernicious influence of, you guessed it, English.

The Los Angeles Times clarifies:

That means no English Trojan horses: The weekend must be fin de semaine (end of the week); there are no cookies in your computer, only temoins de connections (connection witnesses); and if you write a blog, download a podcast or indulge in online chat, you'll have to ecrire un bloc-notes, obtain a telechargement pour baladeur or engager un dialogue en ligne.