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. icon
    Chargone (profile), 19 Apr 2012 @ 5:34pm

    Re: Re: seriously

    try every voter ever to have that information, near enough.

    in New Zealand it has become bloody obvious that this happens all the time. to the point where some of the news companies Deliberately Publish the results of dodgy polls which have obviously been skewed to support their favoured party. week after week after week... and because they're reporting 'fact' it's not even restricted campaign related stuff during the election period.

    this lead Directly to about 1/4th of the registered electors Not Voting in the last election, leading to National just Barely eaking out a 50%+1 majority after forming a coalition with what would have to be the single most hated party that actually manages to get in reliably. (other than themselves).

    this was after MONTHS of the government controlled news services very carefully walking the fine line they do of not critisizing Any of the parties in power unless A: they could hit all the parties with any hope of getting in at once, or B: the events were so blatantly disasterous that the party would take more damage from it being found out Later after being hushed up than it coming to light then (or so it appeared, at least) while 3 News, owned by american interests (established fact: National acts more on US interests than NZ interests, when not acting directly in the interests of getting re-elected or lining their pockets) dedicated pretty much every article on the elections to either how Labour was going to lose or blatantly bias and corrupt polls in support of National... and did everything they possibly could to ignore the rest of the parties in parliament or write them off as loonies... none of the media EVER mentions ANY party that's not already in parliament, no matter how much support it has. (the closest 3News came to saying anything against national was when they had a go at the state owned OneNews for how they handled the debates... and even then general consensis from all sides was that none of the parties really 'won' the debate, and the big loosers were the audience.)

    National's name is also ironic... it's either the first or second most 'globalist' (for want of a better term) party in the country.
    (all (or almost all) of the left wing parties of any significance have taken up nationalist policies and attitudes of late, as have the saner center/center-right parties, largely in response to the massive public backlash against National's blatantly pro-foreign interests/Anti-New Zealand Citizen polices. people like to ignore that Labour did a lot (possibly more) of the same stuff when it was in power, just without stepping on anyone's toes in the process.)

    but yeah, this is the same issue as with exit polls,and under a proportional system. people see the party they like least is (supposedly) going to win, and so rather than voting for the ones they like anyway to reduce the damage, Don't Vote, making each vote in favour of the one they dislike More Valuable and give them More Power.

    had that remaining 1/4th voted, there is no way in hell National could have assembled a majority... we were at the point where essentually Every Other Party (except Act, which is basically 'National with even less sanity' and which i personally write off as 'part of National's bloc') was (apparantly) willing to form a single coalition, despite having major disagreements with each other, just to shut them out. this would have, bizzarely, been in line with public sentiment and probably given them the most solid mandate to govern (though not do any specific thing) any government has had in a long time... (had it been possible to form a coalition Without doing that, of course, the various points of contention would have become an issue again... and a smaller national party persence might have lead to some of them being willing to go with National anyway if it offered them a better deal, which, in a weaker position, it might have done. still, )

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