Why You Can't Say 'Facebook' on French TV

France doesn't share the United States' approach to free speech. The French government exercises a comparatively strict control over language used in the media, and certain words - like Facebook and Twitter - are banned from use. It may seem draconian, but it's part of a law designed to protect consumers from sneaky advertising. Schools offering Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

facebook

France and Free Speech

The American notion of free speech is one some citizens take for granted. While saying the wrong thing publicly might lead to a backlash that puts your job in jeopardy (just ask that guy who played Kramer on Seinfeld), even the most disgusting hate speech is unlikely to result in legal action. This isn't the case in France, where certain types of hate speech are illegal. This is a particularly visible issue now, as fashion designer John Galliano is on trial in France for drunkenly hurling anti-Semitic and pro-Holocaust remarks at a bar patron in February, 2011. If convicted, Galliano could be sentenced to six months in prison and fined the equivalent of about $30,000.

Whether you think this action is just or not, this isn't something you'd be likely to see in the U.S. While many people in this country seem to misunderstand what the right to free speech means, it is highly unlikely that you will literally be put on trial for expressing even the most hateful opinions. The only legal way to prosecute hate speech in the U.S. is through a civil suit brought by an individual who will have to prove damages as a result of that speech. And this isn't where the difference between the two nations' approaches to language ends.

Q-Tip or Cotton Swab?

It's pretty common in the U.S. to exchange a brand name for a more generic description of an item. For example, when your friend asks you for a Kleenex, they aren't necessarily demanding a specific brand of disposable facial tissue. This may seem like more of an easy linguistic shortcut than a nefarious, underhanded attempt at branding - saying 'Band-Aid' is a lot shorter than 'adhesive bandage' - but it's the reason behind the French media ban on saying 'Facebook' and 'Twitter.'

France has laws in place that are designed to protect consumers from advertising in the form of referring to a product by its brand name. This is why saying 'Facebook' or 'Twitter' is not allowed. It's part of a law that applies to other instances in this area. Unfortunately, though, this move has drawn international criticism, and it isn't exactly popular in France.

A Twitter by Any Other Name...

Though this isn't another case of French government language overseers trying to artificially engineer the evolution of their language, it's still a hot topic. Critics of the move point out that calling specific social networks by their names is the best way to identify which network is being discussed. Additionally, there is the risk that a move like this can only feed stereotypes about French cultural snobbery and anti-American reticence.

Despite criticism, the rule seems set to stay in place for now. But it does raise an interesting issue that is food for thought no matter what legal climate your nation's language rests in. In the example of using a brand name to describe a certain product, like Q-Tip for cotton swab, it doesn't really matter what word you use. Whether you use the brand name or the generic description, you're talking about the same basic idea - a little wisp of cotton wrapped around both ends of a short stick. But with social networks, the issue is a bit more complex. Saying that something took place on 'a social network' doesn't tell the whole story. Unlike some other products, social networks really are best described by their brand names.

If you think Americans are too cavalier with adding new words to the collective language, consider the fact that the Oxford Dictionaries Online recently added slang like 'ZOMG' to its database.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Full Sail University

    Full Sail University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Full Sail University:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Campus Locations:

    • Florida: Winter Park
  • Johns Hopkins University

    Johns Hopkins University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Johns Hopkins University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Purdue University

    Purdue University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Purdue University:

    • Master
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • Indiana Wesleyan University

    Indiana Wesleyan University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Indiana Wesleyan University:

    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • Colorado State University Global

    Colorado State University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Colorado State University Global:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Thomas Edison State University

    Thomas Edison State University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Thomas Edison State University:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Excelsior College

    Excelsior College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Excelsior College:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Howard University

    Campus Locations:

    • Columbia (D.C.): Washington