In France, radio and television news anchors are no longer allowed to say the words "Facebook" and "Twitter" on air, unless the terms are specifically part of a news story. The ban stems from a decree issued by the French government on March 27, 1992, which forbids the promotion of commercial enterprises on news programs.
This means French news organizations are not allowed to urge their audience to "follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/emilprotalinski or "check out my Facebook page at facebook.com/emil.protalinski." Instead, they will have to say "find us on social networking websites" or tell viewers to "check out our webpage at this URL to find links to our pages on social networks."
The French TV regulatory agency Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA) insists the French government is simply 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?" a CSA spokesperson said in a statement. "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?'"
If you're a stickler for objective journalism, this probably seems like a reasonable rule to you. On the other hand, this is a regulation that is very difficult to uphold, given how widely established both Facebook and Twitter have become in everyday life today (this news story would have been about MySpace and Friendster if it were published just a few years ago).
This whole political drama in France over using the terms Facebook and Twitter, both American companies, on air reminds me of another similar episode. Freedom fries, the political euphemism for French fries, started being used by some people in the United States after France expressed strong opposition in the United Nations to the US decision to launch the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some decided to boycott French goods and businesses and even remove the country's name from products.
The moral of the story is that such stupid bans don't work. Sure, some people still say Freedom fries rather than French fries, but those are the crazies. Facebook and Twitter became popular for a reason, and purposefully avoiding using them will not achieve anything, except maybe further emphasize how influential they are.
For more perspectives on this story, check out what bloggers Matthew Fraser and Benoit Raphael have to say.