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HS: Finnish officials ban the word "whisky" on private blog

Organisers of a beer and whisky fair in Helsinki have been granted a license on condition that search engines do not link to the event’s website when users search for “whisky”, according to a report in Helsingin Sanomat. The officials have also asked the beer and whisky fair to remove the word “whisky” from their logo and the event’s official name.

Kaksi oluttuoppia ja kaksi viskipaukkua ravintolan pöydällä
Beer is more acceptable than whisky to Finnish authorities. Image: YLE

Southern Finland’s Regional Administrative Agency (Avi) has reportedly put in place some creative restrictions on a beer and whisky fair due to take place in Helsinki in October. Helsingin Sanomat reports that the event’s license is contingent on the fair’s website not showing up in search engine results for the word "whisky" ("viski" in Finnish).

As a consequence, organisers have now asked private bloggers to remove the word from blog postings about the event.

Their reasoning is that advertising of spirits is banned in Finland, and that a blog describing the whiskies on offer at the Beer and Whisky expo, if it showed up in search engine results for "viski", would constitute advertising.

Organiser Mikki Nyman told HS that he had sought guidance from Valvira, the National Authority for Health and Welfare, and was told that people could write about the products on offer at the fair so long as they didn’t give prices for the whiskies or receive payment for the writings.

The bloggers did comply with Nyman’s request, but raised questions about Avi’s actions—as private individuals without any official connection to the event, they could in theory force the withdrawal of the license, if they did not edit their blog postings and Avi followed through on its licensing conditions.

The Helsingin Sanomat report caused a big backlash on social media, with “viski” and “Viskigate” trending on Twitter and even a Tumblr offering little more than pictures, video and the word "viski" repeated hundreds of times.

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