Internet was strong forum for French 'no' vote
By Honor Mahony
A new study has shown how instrumental the internet was for the no campaigners in France, after a wave of analyses on why French voters rejected the EU Constitution in their May referendum.
Carried out by researchers at the University of Technology of Compiegne, the report reveals that those against the constitution mainly invested in websites for their campaigns.
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It also showed that on the 295 sites dedicated to the referendum campaign, 67 percent of those asked to give their opinion on the EU charter voted no.
"The web served as a political tribunal for those who considered themselves distanced from television formats or big-time media, transforming the web into a sort of negative medium", according to the authors of the research, Franck Ghitalla and Guilhem Fouetillou.
This negative medium appeared to help reinforce the negative vote, they add.
The authors also show how small virtual communities were gradually built up around the no campaign on the internet.
The movement even had its own stars, with one no campaigner's site getting up to 30,000 hits a day.
"In the debate on the constitution, the commitment of [those] in favour of a no was massive and it is they who brought the ingredients, the arguments for the no vote", said Mr Ghitalla, according to French daily Liberation.
The study also showed how no sites had a better record of linking to other anti-constitution sites (79%) when compared to pro-constitution sites, where only 64 percent linked to other yes sites.
Pro-constitution sites were also less likely to promote discussion and counter-opinions about the document.
France voted no to the constitution on 29 May, followed three days later by a rejection in the Netherlands.
The votes by two founding members of the EU plunged the bloc into a political maelstrom from which it still has to recover.
It is still not clear what the next political steps will be regarding the constitution, which legally has to be ratified by all 25 member states before it can come into force.