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France Orders Broadcasters to Un-Like Facebook, Unfollow Twitter

By Joseph Castro
Jun 8, 2011 3:24 PMOct 11, 2019 8:20 PM


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What’s the News: Radio and television broadcasters in France must soon abandon self-promoting messages like, “Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.” The French equivalent of the FCC, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), is banning the mention of specific social-networking sites on the radio or TV. While this rule applies to all online social networks, the ruling was directed at the juggernauts Facebook and Twitter.

“Why give preference to Facebook, which is worth billions of dollars, when there are other social networks that are struggling for recognition,” explains CSA spokeswoman Christine Kelly (via the Guardian).

The Criticisms:

  • Bloggers sounded off on the news, ridiculing the CSA and saying they failed to understand that millions of French people have a legitimate desire to share information on Facebook and Twitter. French blogger Benoît Raphael said that the CSA is “giving Americans yet another reason to laugh at France.”

  •  Blogger Matthew Fraser in Paris was quick to claim that this move is another example of France’s hostility towards Anglo-Saxon influences, like when the government outlawed the use of “e-mail” and institutionalized “courriel.”

  • Surprisingly, there was hardly any reaction from the mainstream French media. It was “business at usual,” says Fraser. The move only became news after outrage from bloggers.

The Workarounds:

To skirt the new rule, bloggers like Raphael have sarcastically come up with phrases for broadcasters to use:

  1. Follow us on that site where your messages can only be 140 characters or less.

  2. Find us on that social network where you usually have “friends.”

What’s the Context:

  • The CSA says that specifically referencing social-networking sites on air violates a 1992 law banning the promotion of private businesses on radio or television programs. Networks in France already blur corporate logos on television to avoid product placement or even unintentional advertising.

  • The U.S. does not have any similar laws prohibiting the mention of brands or companies. Though television shows do sometimes blur corporate logos, this is mainly to avoid conflict with advertisers and lawsuits from companies trying to maintain control of their trademarks.

The Future Holds:

  • The CSA is yet to outline how the new ruling will be enforced or how violators will be punished.

  • The regulators also need to work out how far down the rabbit hole they want to go. Will broadcasters be unable to ask viewers to check out their iPad or iPhone apps?

  • Kelly says that referencing Facebook or Twitter on air will be alright if they someday become generic terms for social networking. For now, specific sites may only be used if they are “pivotal to the story,” says Kelly (via the Guardian).

Image credit: marcopako/flikr

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