Twitter Suspends Four Accounts Critical of Sarkozy: Is This What He Meant By 'Civilizing' The Net?

from the what's-going-on-here? dept

Nicolas Sarkozy, who hopes to be re-elected as French President this year, seems to have little love for the Internet. At best, he regards it as a "Wild West" that needs taming. Despite that, Sarkozy joined Twitter last week -- you can follow him @NicolasSarkozy. Posts are mainly written by his re-election team, although there seem to be a handful of personal tweets (marked "NS"). But at least he's finally engaging with the new medium on its own terms.

Or maybe not:

The morning after French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he will run for a second term, several parodic Twitter accounts have mysteriously been suspended. @_nicolassarkozy , an account created in September 2010 and clearly labeled as a satirical Sarkozy impersonation, was suspended on Feburary 16th.
The account was run by the French website kaboul.fr:
According to Kaboul.fr, which, after complaining, received an answer from Twitter, @_nicolassarkozy was "suspended after being reported." Twitter also told Kabul.fr that to be granted such priviledge, the suspension had to be made by Sarkozy, or someone acting on his authority.
Twitter's official response has been leaked:
We have received a valid report that your account, @_NicolasSarkozy, is engaged in non-parody impersonation. Although Twitter firmly believes in the freedom of expression, impersonation that misleads, confuses, or deceives others is against the Twitter Rules (http://twitter.com/rules). Your account has been temporarily suspended due to violation of our impersonation policy.
The key issue here seems to be possible confusion, since Twitter's guidelines on Parody, Commentary, and Fan Accounts state:
In order to avoid impersonation, an account's profile information should make it clear that the creator of the account is not actually the same person or entity as the subject of the parody/commentary. Here are some suggestions for marking your account:
Username: The username should not be the exact name of the subject of the parody, commentary, or fandom; to make it clearer, you should distinguish the account with a qualifier such as "not," "fake," or "fan."

Name: The profile name should not list the exact name of the subject without some other distinguishing word, such as "not," "fake," or "fan."
Maybe the account @_NicolasSarkozy has fallen foul of those rules, although it's hard to believe anyone would mistake a parody of Sarkozy for the real thing - it was not an "impersonation". But what about the other accounts that were suspended?
three other accounts, all clearly opposing Sarkozy's political views, were suspended at the same time: @mafranceforte, @fortefrance and @SarkozyCaSuffit. Those accounts where not related to Kaboul.fr, nor impersonating local politician, but straight-ahead, and recently-created, politically-oriented Twitter accounts.
"La France Forte" -- "Strong France" -- is the slogan for Sarkozy's campaign, prominently displayed on his Twitter page, so the use of the phrase for Twitter accounts might be seen as confusing. But again, the content would surely tip people off that it was a parody. The last of the four accounts that were suspended recently is @SarkozyCaSuffit -- roughly translated as "Sarkozy, That's Enough". It's clearly what Twitter calls a "Commentary" account, making a very obvious comment about a political figure - no question of "impersonation". Unless there are any other grounds for doing so (and so far there don't seem to be any), removing it looks like pure political censorship in favor of Sarkozy.

We don't know at this stage exactly who asked for these four accounts to be removed, only that according to Twitter's rules it must have been done "by Sarkozy, or someone acting on his authority". We asked Twitter about this and it refused to provide specifics on why the accounts were closed or the timing, other than to say that just because the accounts were suspended in the same general time frame, it wasn't necessarily for the same reason.

Be that as it may, the near-simultaneous closure of four accounts all critical of a powerful national politician inevitably reminds us that for many countries, "civilizing" the Internet often comes down to censoring it. It's worrying to see France apparently starting to go down that route -- and for Twitter to be helping it.

Update @_NicolasSarkozy has been unblocked, but the other three are still suspended.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 1:02pm

    Parody Rules

    What? I parody myself all the time! It's good practice...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Kurata, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 1:02pm

    for clarification purposes, i would like to point out that the account @_nicolasarkozy had inscribed that it was for a parody purpose.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 1:13pm

    Since France Forte is the campaign slogan, " @mafranceforte, @fortefrance" would very much be accounts that could create confusion. I would expect the official campaign tweet to be on one of them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 1:18pm

    if Sarkosy gets voted in for a 2nd term, the French deserve everything they get!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 1:25pm

    Didn't Twitter decry SOPA censorship? WTF?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 1:27pm

    >Makes an RIAA parody account stating lies as evidence of rampant piracy killing the industry

    >Can't tell the difference between the real thing

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 1:33pm

    Fake Sarkozy

    If there was somebody with a twitter account like FakeSarkozy they could really make themselves obviously fake by suggesting he wanted laws that were in France's best interest.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    DinosaurHunter (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 2:06pm

    Re:

    Did they? They didn't join in the Jan 18th actions and actually dissed them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Ed, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 2:51pm

    You're Wrong and You're Harming Free Speech

    Twitter is NOT prohibiting free speech
    that is critical of Sarkozy.

    They are only suspending those who pretend to be him for nefarious purposes.
    Twitter's bar is set high for such actions.
    I have attempted to have malicious impostors banned, and
    it's difficult to get them to do this.
    Ergo, you can be sure Sarkozy's office was able to make a solid case.

    By framing this in either/or, black or white terms, and so predictably painting anything that moves with a broad brush, rather than appraising the individual case, you are weakening the coherence of vigilance.

    "t's worrying to see France apparently starting to go down that route -- and for Twitter to be helping it."

    That's NOT what's happening here.
    Twitter does not moderate content [except spam, phishing, violence, etc] and is actuallt too hands off.

    I have fought for free speech in the US for 30 years.
    But this generation is too whiny, when they put no responsibility on the creator of the impersonation accounts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 3:04pm

    Look on the bright side. For once, someone surrendered to France, instead of the other way around.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 4:02pm

    Re: You're Wrong and You're Harming Free Speech

    They are only suspending those who pretend to be him for nefarious purposes.

    It does not appear that your claim is true. The accounts seemed to be pretty clearly parody accounts, and as detailed in the article, the last one was clearly political speech directed at Sarkozy and not confusing speech.

    Twitter's bar is set high for such actions.

    That's what we'd hope too, but the details here don't support that. We reached out to Twitter with some questions about this before posting, hoping they would clear it up. They didn't. I received two content-free answers from comms people there. It was disappointing, to say the least.

    Ergo, you can be sure Sarkozy's office was able to make a solid case.

    Again, if you look over the accounts, we cannot be sure of that at all. They look like legit parody accounts.

    That's NOT what's happening here.
    Twitter does not moderate content [except spam, phishing, violence, etc] and is actuallt too hands off.


    Again, that's what we had hoped, and certainly t he company has presented itself that way. But, without them giving us any more details and given the information that is public, this case seems very questionable.

    I have fought for free speech in the US for 30 years.
    But this generation is too whiny, when they put no responsibility on the creator of the impersonation accounts.


    Really? You want to go there? Ad hom attacks? Please rethink.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    V (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:39pm

    I'd act surprised...

    I'd act surprised... but they're FRENCH... enough said.

    As for Twitter... keep up with the suspensions... and see who comes out with a newer, better Twitter alternative...

    Don't think it can happen? Can you say... MySpace?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Laroquod (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 9:22pm

    Re: You're Wrong and You're Harming Free Speech

    There is an important piece missing in your perception of the way the world works. Just because Twitter ignores Mr. Ed NoName's attempts to have people banned, doesn't mean they are going to ignore the government of France.

    Stop assuming people consistently follow their own rules, and start taking note of how things change depending on who is doing the asking. You will begin to notice an unmistakeable pattern at work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Rasa Karapandza, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 7:40am

    twitter censorship in Serbia

    There was a very similar case in Serbia.
    On satirical account was shut down for impersonating the Serbian Foreign minister. After lengthy discussion with Twitter the ban was revoked.

    Even EU komissioner for enlargement Stefan Fule was involved in the issue.
    http://bit.ly/A005xE

    My suggestion to the account holder would be to fight for his freedom of speech right. In Serbias case that strategy worked very well.

    Greetings from @karapandza

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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