The French often like to take their own path and, when it comes to social media it seems they are no different. In a move that brings to mind King Canute, French authorities are attempting to stop people from using social media to discuss exit poll results on election days. This strikes me as being as ridiculous as trying to stop people chatting about politics in the pub on the day of a general election.
In particular, the French authorities are reported to be targeting those Twitter users (and there were many of them) who discussed exit poll results before the 8pm deadline in Sunday’s first round presidential election because the law in France bans the publication of exit poll results before all polling stations are closed. And it isn’t just Twitter users in France who are under fire. In a move that reinforces stereotypes of French arrogance, the authorities were also reported to have begun attempts to prosecute media outlets in other countries, in particular Belgium, for breaking the same law. Why newspapers would have to do anything other than adhere to the laws of the country that they operate in is beyond me.
Amusingly, to get around the restrictions in France, Twitter users adopted code names for the various candidates when tweeting about them. The candidate with the most votes after round one, Francois Hollande was frequently referred to as The Flan and the current president Nicolas Sarkozy as Platform (a reference to his stacked shoes).
It will be interesting to see what action is taken and what codes are used when the second round of voting takes place on May 6th. One thing’s for sure, there’ll be plenty of people Tweeting about it, including the exit poll results.