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 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: seriously

    where do you live that such oppinion polls are accurate?

    here abouts they're blatant propaganda that are just 'fact-y' enough to not trip campaign rules ... the Polls are horribly bias and corrupt, but they're data gathering, not Campaigning... and the Reporting on them is not Campaigning at all, just statement of 'fact'.

    this is used Deliberately to discourage supporters of those parties opposing the group the media company in question supports...

    to devistating effect in the last election where it was a major contributing factor to 1/4th of all registered electors Not Voting, resulting in an Exact 50%+1 seat win by the party (and it's one or two (my memory is vague on if the second was needed or simply bandwagon jumping)'irrelevant as a separate entity' smaller buddies) that was being supported by said obviously corrupt poll.

    they had been making the claim that National would get a minimum of 50% for Months, during the course of which you could not find anyone with anything positive to say about national Anywhere but the dedicated 'national is awesome and everyone sucks and no i did not engage my Brain before writing this, rar shill troll rar' type blogs

    should also be noted that electorate boundries got redrawn (as they need to do periodically due to population changes), in many cases (as is far from uncommon) in favour of the current ruling party...

    In Spite of all this, there were so many electorates that were so close as to need repeated recounts ... and court cases over some of them... it was nuts. the one i Live in was a Perfect Tie between two candidates for the local electorate seat (we use an MMP system) until days after the election when the last of the special votes (people out of the country or otherwise unable to vote in their electorate on election day) came in. those special votes only add up to a few hundred voters per electorate, generally. enough to make a difference to the national level party vote, but usually completely irrelevant in terms of who wins an electorate...

    i don't know why people believed these polls though... we've had years of elections where 3news kept trying to do the same thing and it didn't pan out... one of which had national reduced from alternating between largest and second largest depending on if it won or not, to 'actually smaller than some of the 'minor' parties' ... there was much hope it would just Die after that, but sadly it came back.

    of course, This time National was the incumbent at the same time and Labour is falling into the trap National did of changing leaders every election and picking people no one's ever heard of... (and, the media kept slaming their last pick as having no presense and being evasive and God knows what else despite people easily remembering who he was and him being honest and straight forward and actualy answering questions when asked rather than ranting on about unrelated subjects as everyone else does... bizzarely, their current leader? most people can't remember his damn NAME most of the time, or face, or anything he's actually done. ... compaired to the previous one, he's something of a non-entity so far._

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