France bans Twitter, Facebook mentions on TV, in the name of market competition

The words "Facebook" and "Twitter" are now verboten on French TV, because France thought it'd be a good idea to follow its own laws. Last week, the country's Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA) ruled that TV networks and radio stations will no longer be able to explicitly mention Facebook or Twitter during on-air broadcasts, except when discussing a story in which either company is directly involved. The move comes in response to a 1992 governmental decree that prohibits media organizations from promoting brands during newscasts, for fear of diluting competition. Instead of inviting viewers to follow their programs or stories on Twitter, then, broadcast journalists will have to couch their promotions in slightly more generic terms -- e.g. "Follow us on your social network of choice." CSA spokeswoman Christine Kelly explains:

"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?'"

It didn't take long for the US media to jump all over the story, with many outlets citing no less objective a source than Matthew Fraser -- a Canadian expat blogger who claims, in ostensible sincerity, that the ruling is symptomatic of a "deeply rooted animosity in the French psyche toward Anglo-Saxon cultural domination." Calling the ruling "ludicrous," Fraser went on to flamboyantly point out the obvious, stating that such regulatory nonsense would never be tolerated by corporations in the US. But then again, neither would smelly cheese or universal healthcare. Apple, meet orange. Fueling competition via aggressive regulation may strike some free-marketeers as economically depraved, but it certainly won't kill social media-based commerce. Facebook and Twitter have already become more or less synonymous with "social networks" anyway, so it's hard to envision such a minor linguistic tweak having any major effect on online engagement. That's not to say that the new regulation will suddenly create a level playing field -- it won't. But it probably won't put America's social media titans at a serious disadvantage, as some would have you believe. Rather, these knee-jerk arguments from Fraser and others seem more rooted in capitalist symbolism and cross-cultural hyperbole than anything else -- reality, included.