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France

Facebook accused of helping Sarkozy's online makeover

Text by Sébastian SEIBT

Latest update : 2012-02-15

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has a brand new Facebook profile. On Wednesday afternoon, before he had even announced his candidacy, some of his opponents were openly accusing Facebook of deliberately helping him boost his online image.


On Wednesday afternoon French President Nicolas Sarkozy had yet to announce his official candidacy for the forthcoming presidential election.
 
But his online campaign profile was shaping up nicely. His brand new Twitter feed @NicolasSarkozy confirmed that he will appear live on TF1 television at 8pm Paris time (GMT+1) on Wednesday.

Until now, the president’s aides had used the Elysée presidential palace Twitter account exclusively. His new Twitter feed is just one more confirmation – if that were needed - that he is on the cusp of launching himself as Sarkozy the candidate alongside Sarkozy the president.

The president also has an all-new Facebook profile and has the distinction of being the only French politician to use the social networking site’s new “Timeline” format, which was introduced in September 2011 and allows web users to trace users’ history on the site.

Sarkozy’s Facebook Timeline is extensive and exhaustive. It includes some 700 pictures that date back all the way to his birth. And while giving him a more modern look than his opponents, it is also revealing in what the president has chosen to omit from his online history.

Gone is all mention of a controversial 2007 state visit from then-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, as well as a notorious Dakar speech in July 2007 in which he asserted that “the African man has never really entered history.”

Much of the president’s controversial private life has also been excised. His ex-wife Cecelia Attias, who was Sarkozy’s “special councillor” while he was interior minister, is nowhere to be found. Neither is there any mention of his whirlwind romance and marriage to Italian singer and former model Carla Bruni.

Also missing are his more controversial outbursts, including a 2006 promise to “sand-blast” France’s restive suburbs, and a vulgar and widely publicised comment at a 2008 agricultural show when he told a heckler “casse toi pauvre con”, which essentially means “get lost jerk” in the mildest of translations.

Facebook accused of helping out

It is perfectly normal that a presidential candidate would only want the electorate to only see his “best bits”, although the new Sarkozy image is still a far cry from his 2007 campaign, in which his private life was placed centre stage.

But Facebook itself is facing accusations that it sent a dedicated team to meet with the president’s men in order to perfect his online image.

Soon after Sarkozy’s Timeline went live on February 10, Facebook’s content director for France Julien Codorniou tweeted that the presidential Timeline was “quite impressive”.

Weekly news magazine L’Express picked up on this to speculate that Facebook was hoping to gain attention for the new Timeline function by advising the president. The new Facebook tool is being rolled out to all the site’s users and is not universally popular.

“The sheer amount of work that has gone into [Sarkozy’s] Facebook profile is even more surprising than the quality of the work,” Benoit Thielin told L’Express (Thielin is an online image expert who managed the 2007 web campaign of failed presidential candidate Segolene Royal). “It can only have been done over a period of months by a team of dedicated professionals.”

The main opposition Socialists were more direct. The party’s digital campaign manager Fleur Peulin said in an email obtained by L’Express, that Julien Codorniou had “informally assisted Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign team so as to create a Timeline on his fan page” and that she "can not approve of a company taking sides in a presidential campaign.”
Facebook has denied all accusations of being politically partisan.

“We are regularly in contact with numerous public figures, including politicians, for information and advice on how to use our products and services,” a company spokesman said in an email. “We give them that help but we remain completely impartial.” 


 

Date created : 2012-02-15

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