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French Voters Warned To Stay Off Social Media Lest They 'Crash The Election'

from the not-likely dept

Update: Apparently the Guardian made a translation error, and the French 'bugger' is actually borrowed from the English 'bug' (as in computer bug) and just means 'crash'.

Last year, we wrote about a situation developing in Canada, where a strict reading of legacy election laws made it illegal for east-coast voters to discuss exit polls on Facebook or Twitter until polling stations across the country had officially closed. Now, the Guardian reports that a more or less identical situation has cropped up in France, where newspapers and regulators are warning citizens to keep mum about early results in the upcoming presidential election.

French law prohibits the media from publishing polls or exit surveys between midnight on the Friday before election day until all the voting stations have closed on Sunday – 8pm in cities and 6pm in towns.

This is strictly upheld. Because of time differences, French voters in overseas territories and departments, such as Martinique and Guadeloupe, will have gone to the polls the previous day; knowing early results in areas where the outcome is expected to be close could influence last-minute voters.

The French commission for opinion polls has ruled that Twitter and Facebook fall within the legal definition of media and are bound by the law.

The Journal du Dimanche headlined an article about the situation: "Twitter fera-t-il bugger l'élection?" (Will Twitter bugger crash the election?)

As we noted last year with regard to Canada, such laws are holdovers from a time when the national media was controlled by a few key players. In the modern world, where everyone is the media, they are completely impractical. And indeed, as the Canadian election wrapped up, it became clear that citizens were completely ignoring the rule, even going so far as to set up a website dedicated to aggregating such tweets. In fact it seemed that the law actually drove more people to share early results online—and then the whole story sort of fizzled, when Elections Canada admitted that they only investigate and enforce the law in response to specific complaints.

As the Guardian notes, such a law is perhaps more significant in France, where the overseas territories mean the polling window spans two days. But, whatever arguments there may be for protecting the sanctity of elections, the law is still unenforceable. I suspect we'll see the same disregard in France as we did in Canada—and probably the same lack of repercussions, depending on the outcome of the vote. Someday, somewhere in the world, we may see a close election get contested on the grounds that such a law was broken—and that will spark a huge debate about the role of social media and the internet in election polling. But for now, it's unlikely that many people will heed the warnings and alter their behavior.

Filed Under: election, france, social media
Companies: facebook, twitter


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2012 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Also, a proportional representation system should allow me to vote for my preferred candidate within the party I choose to vote for. Perhaps to reduce the spoiler effect within parties, a three candidate alternative vote system can be set up within each party. My vote prioritizes the candidate within my favorite party that I like the most and the candidate that I like the second most gets voted second on my ballot, and the same for the third. My party gets my vote no matter what, those within my party that get the most (highest priority) votes get seats first.

    This is beneficial, and eliminates most of the problems with the proportional vote system, since more than one person may get a seat within my party, if I can only vote for one person then I have no way to prioritize who gets a seat within my party beyond the person I vote for. For example, most people within my party may agree with the top two candidates and may vote for them. Most people within my party may not like the third candidate so much but a very few who do may vote for them. Most people in my party may prefer the fourth candidate over the third but because they voted for the first two candidates they have no way of indicating this. If my party only gets three seats, the candidate that most members within my party like the least may get the third seat. Requiring parties to give members the option of prioritizing their votes, if done correctly, could fix this and get a third candidate that more members within the party agree with.

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