French President Nicolas Sarkozy has joined social networking site Twitter despite his communications team insisting only months ago that the leader would never sign up.
There is speculation that the president, who is expected to announce his candidacy in the coming election tonight, will be using social media as part of his campaign strategy.
His first tweet, at around 7am GMT on Wednesday, read (translated from French):
The Tweet was signed "NS".
Four hours later, almost 27,000 people were following the French President’s official account.
It's a complete turnaround for Sarkozy's communication team who stated last September that: “An account for the president is simply unimaginable. It’s unmanageable.”
However Sarkozy is still some way off from achieving the Twitter popularity of his rival François Hollande, who has 150,000 followers.
The move to social networking for Sarkozy comes amid another controversy after it was revealed that the Elysee Palace worked with Facebook to create Sarkozy's timeline on his personal account, sparking anger from opposition groups.
The president’s personal Facebook timeline profile offers a complete biography of his life along with more than 700 pictures. It already counts almost 15,000 subscribers, while his fan page has 526 837 fans.
The timeline shows pictures of Sarkozy at a nuclear power plant, a classroom, a diplomatic meeting, public events and other significant milestones. But a number of memories appear to have been carefully left out, including pictures taken with deposed Libyan leader Gaddafi, Tunisia's former Ben Ali and Syria's Bashar al-Assad.
Facebook has admitted that the company gave the president’s digital team a chance to create a timeline profile in September 2011. Creator Mark Zuckerberg presented the new layout on 22 September and it was only available to all Facebook users months later, in December .
The minute the president’s timeline was launched Julien Codorniou, one of Facebook France's top managers tweeted his satisfaction:
In the aim of discrediting claims that Facebook only endorsed the president over his left-wing counterpart, Francois Hollande, the company declared they had contacted his campaign head office.
But the Socialist party has complained of not receiving the same treatment as Sarkozy. Facebook admitted they offered Hollande the opportunity to create a personal timeline in late 2011, three months after Nicolas Sarkozy’s team started putting together his profile.
To mark their disappointment Hollande cancelled a scheduled meeting with Facebook on Monday, in which issues such as protection of privacy, competition rights and Facebook’s development in France were to be discussed.
Later in the day, Socialist Member of Parliament and digital expert, Christian Paul, declared:
“If there has been a direct intervention from Facebook advisers during their legal work time, it is worth checking if it corresponds to a misuse of company property. If not remunerated, it is a benefit in kind, therefore an illegal financing of Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign. Potentially, this can be very serious.”
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