Just last week, I published an article on digital side of the French presidential elections. At the time, French President Nicolas Sarkozy didn’t have an official Twitter account. After announcing his intention to run for reelection on February 12th, he and his social media team got their act together. Well, kinda.
There’s only one Sarkozy on Twitter. The real one.
Today, Sarkozy has a verified Twitter account with over 95K followers. In his byline, he makes a point of stating that he signs all his own tweets with NS. And in one of his more recent tweets, he even tweeted his Deezer playlist (WTF?). I guess this means he’s finally decided to go hard on social media…
…and hard on CENSORSHIP.
Since declaring his intentions to run for reelection, a strange thing has been happening on Twitter. Numerous accounts parodying Sakorzy were suspended.
Nouvel Observateur reported that the account @_NicolasSarkozy – which was run by @Kaboul_FR, who runs additional parody accounts – was suspended only hours after Sarkozy made his official reelection announcement on TF1. @_NicolasSarkozy is an account that has existed since September 2010, according to an article posted on Kaboul.fr’s site explaining the situation. The organization also posted the email they received from Twitter, alerting them that their account was being temporarily suspended for “non-parody impersonation” and that they would need to change their username and avatar.
Additional accounts – including @Sarko29 @mafranceforte @fortefrance @Sarkozycasuffit @Sarkozycestfini @MrSarkozy and @DehorsSarkozy – have also evaporated, likely for the same reason.
CENSURE: the real way to fail at social media.
Obviously, Twitter has a policy of being able to suspend accounts that impersonate people – which perhaps first became apparent when @CEOSteveJobs was suspended last year (although it’s now back up and running…). So, technically, Sarkozy & Co. have the right to silence these accounts.
But is it really a smart strategy?
Let’s think back to some of the reactions we’ve seen to social media censorship in the past. There are hundreds of examples, from Nestlé to Arab Spring – and any idiot can tell you that the world has not reacted in favor of silence. In fact, it was only a few weeks ago that Twitter announced that it would block certain messages in countries where they were deemed illegal and users backlashed with #OUTRAGE. Twitter responded saying that it would only block the tweet in that particular country if the authorities made the appropriate request. In lieu of the tweet, a grey box with “tweet withheld” would appear in its place.
But back to my point.
France is a country that greatly values freedom of press and freedom of speech. Well, maybe not to the (ridiculous) extent that the US seems to be valuing freedom of speech – read this. In France, freedom of press has its roots in the French Revolution of 1789 and political satire/caricature has been in print in France since 1830. It’s played an important role in numerous events in France’s political history. Satirical publications like Charlie Hebdo and Le Canard Enchaîné are just as widely read and quoted as Le Monde and politicians have stood up to defend their freedom of expression even when dealing with sensitive, religious matters.
Therefore, the censoring of these anti-Sarkozy Twitter accounts is not likely to pass lightly – especially not in France. Various publications have already stepped up to applaud Sarkozy’s opponents – namely François Hollande – for not taking this dictatorial social media stance. Numerous parodies of François Hollande are stilly up and running, including @FrançoisHolland, an account managed by the same people who were behind the censored @_NicolasSarkozy account.
Prior to the 2007 French presidential elections, Sarkozy stated that he “preferred an excess of caricatures rather than the absence of caricatures.” Unfortunately, it seems this is no longer the case.
Oh, PS: Looks like a few parody accounts still need to be crushed. Not to worry, Sarkozy’s social media team will probably care of this quickly