France bans Facebook and Twitter references from TV and Radio: No more monopoly, please!

27 May, France decided to ban the mention of Facebook and Twitter from public TV and Radio usage except when a story specifically deals with those subjects – they can say “Follow us on Social Networks, details on our website”, but no longer refer specifically to those two.

Social Newsroom’s Benoît Raphaël and ZDNet’s Emil Protalinski dislikes that. I don’t agree.

Emil himself cites the relevant passages:

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?’”

This reasoning – plain and simple stated – doesn’t seem to satisfy Emil. Upcoming are the “usual suspects” with France: competition with US companies, Freedom Fries, yadda yadda yadda. I wonder whether it would also go this way if, say, New Zealand made this decision. Emil goes on:

If you’re a stickler for objective journalism, this probably seems like a reasonable rule to you.

Yes, it does. Am I a “stickler for objective journalism”? Probably, I’d like journalism to be objective. I’d also like markets to be perfect, and I’d like Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

But this is nothing idealistic, but a very practical matter. France does ban specific companies, not Social Networking in general.

There is no reason why media outlets shouldn’t advertise their website and linking to SN from there – however, they do not need to monopolise Facebook and Twitter, but can also link to identi.ca or Diaspora, emerging FLOSS projects.

Facebook and Twitter didn’t invent Social Networking. It is an idea whose time had come, and there would be another “Facebook” without Zuckerberg and another “SMS-to-Web” application without Twitter.

Now, emerging projects (and notice how buggy Facebook is) will always have a handicap establishing a “critical mass” of users, although technically superiour, decentralised and respecting their clients’ privacy much better. Identi.ca is fantastic and I cross-post everything on it, but it really suffers from very slow growth.

Is there any reason why Social Networking shouln’t work like Jabber – instant messaging with decentralised servers talking to each other? Wouldn’t a Jabber-like “Facebook” – “find me on dingo.saar@pundit.de” – be much better, where you can chose a local server? Yes, there is: Why give preference to Facebook, which is worth billions of dollars, when there are many other social networks that are struggling for recognition? But I’m a user interested in my privacy. I’m not a Target Group. And I’m most certainly not the Salvation Army for Facebook’s and Twitter’s profits.

I lived with a Windows monopoly hampering progress for too long until OS X established as real competitor and put pressure to innovate back on MS. I really don’t want a Facebook monopoly to brake down and throw back SOTA in Social Networking for the next 20 years – not after the end of the “Browser Wars” put Internet standardisation back to W3C, not after IT standards are going to OASIS more and more.

And let’s face it: spoken URIs are about as ridiculous as printed internet. “Follow me on Twitter unter the username emilprotalinski, that’s E like Easy, M like Mike, Item, Love, Peter, Roger, Oboe, Tare,…”?
I prefer “Follow me on Social Networks. Visit our Website for further information and links.”

The French decision is a good one. Contrary to Benoît, I think the CSA has understood Facebook, Twitter and the implication 25% of the French use them very well and reacted accordingly. It won’t end distortion of competition alone, but is a good start. And – instead of MySpace and other providers, even ICQ – Facebook and Twitter are a grave and current danger of monopolising an emerging key aspect of the web.

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