(U//FOUO) U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: France

The following report is part of a series of Social Media Landscape guides produced by the U.S. Department of State for its U.S.- European Media Hub which is described as connecting “European audiences with U.S. policymakers and perspectives.” The Media Hub, which is located in Brussels, Belgium, is part of the International Media Engagement Office of the U.S. Department of State. The report was produced in January 2010. See also:

U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Hungary
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Latvia
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Spain
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Belarus
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Belgium
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Italy
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Romania
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Norway

For USG Official Use Only

Social Media Landscape: France

France at a glance

  • Internet penetration in France is high and is set to increase
  • French is the main language used in social media communication
  • French social network, Copains d’avant, has the highest membership figures in France, but Facebook has more daily traffic
  • Social media is not a heavily utilized tool for the French government at the moment

I.                 Executive Summary

The Internet and social media are in a relatively advanced stage of development in France. Penetration rates are higher than the European average, although France is still trailing behind the European leaders in terms of social media sophistication.

Social media is very popular amongst French Internet users, with six social media sites in the top 20 most visited websites in France. Social networking and video-sharing are the most popular social media activities in France. Blogging, on the other hand, is comparatively less engaged with indicating the behavior of the French online is more fast-paced with less emphasis on long form communication.

French Internet users tend to use the French language in online communication and social media. As a result, micro-blogging platform Twitter has grown in popularity since a French version was introduced.

The Government has been relatively slow to catch on to the potential of social media in France, with only a limited number of politicians regularly using and updating social media sites. The French government will however be forced to rise to the social media challenge, as their electorate is using these platforms more and more to discuss political issues.  Nonetheless, the government’s Digital France report outlines its commitment to providing Internet access for all over the coming years and as this increases, the creation and consumption of social media content and engagement is expected to rise.

II.              Access

  • Internet penetration is higher in France than the European average, with 65.7% having online access in France compared to 60% across Europe
  • 90% of the French Internet population are considered to be ‘sophisticated users’
  • ICT expenditure makes up 3.1% of GDP in France

Internet penetration in France is at 65.7% across the population; slightly higher than the European average of 59%.  In the year to 2008, Internet penetration in France increased by 18%. In terms of full online availability, France ranks 11th out of 30 European countries with full online availability at 80% compared to the EU27 average of 71%. The French Internet population is also the 11th most sophisticated country in Europe, with a 90% online sophistication rate compared to the EU27 average of 83%.

In total, 62% of French households have broadband connections; higher than the EU27 average of 60%. Amongst French enterprises, this figure increases to 92%; significantly higher than the European average of 81%.  There is a difference of 13 percentage points between full online availability for citizens and businesses, with businesses generally having better access than individual consumers. Despite this disparity, French businesses are not significantly more sophisticated than individuals in their Internet usage, with online sophistication rates at 89% for citizens and 93% for businesses.  Overall, ICT expenditure as a percentage of GDP equals 3.1% in France, which is also higher than the European average of 2.7%.

The French Government is committed to improving Internet access for all as stated in their Digital France 2012 report, released in early 2008.  The core priorities laid out in this report are:

  • to enable all citizens to access all digital networks and services
  • to develop the production and supply of digital contents
  • to increase and diversify the use of digital services by companies, public administrations and citizens
  • to modernize the governance of the Digital Economy

In addition, the report has set a target of 100% access to fixed broadband Internet in the near future, as well as developing a very high-speed broadband infrastructure for the whole country. The plan also outlined the establishment of an inter-ministerial delegation to create a structure for digital matters within France.

III.            Activity

  • Social media is highly utilized amongst French Internet users, with 60% of the population visiting at least one social media site
  • Social networking is the most popular form of social media in France, with 59% of the online population using these platforms
  • French social network, Copains d’avant, has the highest membership numbers amongst French users, although Facebook experiences higher Internet traffic

Social media is extremely popular amongst French Internet users. A report published by ComScore revealed that 22 million French Internet users had visited at least one social media platform during December 2008, this represents in excess of 60% of the population. Only the UK and Germany reported higher numbers of social media participants (29.3 million and 24.9 million respectively).  At the beginning of 2009, more than 23 million Internet users in France had looked at some form of social media. On average, they spent around 2.5 hours engaging with social media, 54 more minutes than the same period last year.

Social networking and video sharing are the most popular social media in France, with 59% and 40% respectively of Internet users participating in these activities. Blogging (both reading and writing), sharing photos online and interacting with podcasts are all underpenetrated social media activities, with only 3% of Internet users reading blogs, 2% writing blogs, 3% sharing photos online and 4% downloading podcasts.

French social network Copains d’avant has the highest user numbers across all social networks, with 14 670 000 registered members. However, the number of active users is not suspected to be this high, and the site is in fact ranked 20th by Alexa in terms of popularity in France.  In contrast, Facebook has slightly fewer registered users than Copains d’avant (12 million), but is the second most popular website in France following Google.  In the year to February 2009, unique users visiting the Facebook site in France increased by 518%, demonstrating the immense popularity of the social networking platform. Currently, French users make up 5.2% of all Facebook users globally, second only to the USA.  Facebook registers the highest number of members (60%) in the 18-24 age bracket, and out of that 51% are students.

Skyrock is another highly utilized social networking platform in France. The site has over 11 million French users, which makes up more than half of the total users globally. Skyrock is the 6th most popular website in France, and the second most popular social network behind Facebook in terms of daily users and page views.  There is also a blogging platform hosted on the site, Skyblog, which currently hosts over 28 million individual blog posts.  French users make up 70.9% of total Skyrock users globally.

Video sharing is also extremely popular amongst French Internet users. In 2009, 63.2% of French Internet users watched video online. YouTube and Dailymotion are the most popular video sharing platforms, and both are amongst the top 20 websites in France as ranked by average daily users and page views. YouTube comes in a number 4 on this list with approximately 12.5 million unique visitors and Dailymotion at number 13 with 9.4 million unique users. Dailymotion’s viewers are predominantly under the age of 35 (54%).

Professional social networking is also utilized by French Internet consumers. Viadeo is the most popular network with 2.5 million French users making up 53.1% of total users to the site. LinkedIn has 1 million users in France and is the second most popular professional networking site, although French users only make up 1.1% of total LinkedIn accounts. Twitter is still in relatively low usage amongst French Internet users with only 125,000 French accounts linked to the platform.  The site is ranked 74th by Alexa in terms of popular French websites. Twitter launched in French in November 2009, and with this change it is likely that the penetration amongst French users will increase.

IV.          Organizational Use

  • To date, there has been limited social media usage amongst French politicians, although those that do use social media do so very effectively
  • Journalists and traditional media outlets are increasingly using online and social media tools for news, with twitter being the most utilized social media tool

French Politicians on Twitter

  • Benoist Apparu
  • Dominique Bussereau
  • Xavier Darcos
  • Anne-Marie Idrac
  • Christian Estrosi
  • Hervé Novelli
  • Valérie Pécresse
  • Laurent Wauquiez
  • Bruno Le Maire
  • Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet

Social media is being increasingly utilized to help rally support around social campaigns

Social media is not fully utilized as a communications tool by the French government, although those who do use social media often use more than one form.  French Minister of State, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, responsible for Forward Planning, Assessment of Public Policies and Development of the Digital Economy, uses social media extremely effectively. She utilizes a Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Daily Motion as platforms for social media, and ensures that they all link to each other. Her blog effectively works as a hub for all her social media communications. The Foreign Affairs Ministry in France is also active in social media. They use Twitter, Friendfeed, Delicious, YouTube and Dailymotion. The Ministry has also developed an IPhone application for travel tips in France.  French President, Nicolas Sarkozy has a Facebook page and RSS feed links from the official website, but Twitter is not currently utilized.

Despite the fact that Twitter is under-penetrated by the majority of French politicians, the French electorate use Twitter regularly to discuss politics and recently the EU election. TweetElect09 was set up to monitor all Tweets that referenced the EU 2009 elections. The most spoken about political movements by French social media users were the Socialist Party and the Democratic Movement, which made up 47.3% of the discussion.  The fact that social media is being used in such large numbers by the French electorate should act as a catalyst for more French politicians to utilize social media as a communications opportunity.

Journalists and news sites are increasingly using Twitter in France. Video sharing platforms such as YouTube, Dailymotion or Wat.tv are also being used by the media. Facebook is not yet really used by traditional outlets; and even Internet news sites such as rue89.com Marianne2.fr are more using Twitter than Facebook. Le Figaro is an exception to this, and has more followers on its Facebook site than its Twitter feed.

French Newspapers on Twitter

French social media users are beginning to user Twitter as a platform to network offline as well as online. Twunch (Twitter lunch) has been set up to allow twitter users to gather informally and share ideas. French Internet users are also using Twitter to mobilize around specific causes, including recently the controversy surrounding Jean Sarkozy.  In 2009, Sarkozy, the son of the French President, was offered the position of head of Epad, the development agency for La Défense. His appointment was reported by many newspapers as nepotism. An online petition against the nomination has filtered through the Internet; particularly through Twitter using the hashtag #jeansarkozypartout. A microsite was created (http://www.jeansarkozypartout.com/) to amalgamate all tweets donning this hashtag. This case study demonstrates the potential power that social media could have in France particularly for social or political campaigns.

V.             Legal & Ethical

  • Whilst there is not a specific regulatory system for digital content, many laws have been adapted in recent years to cover digital activity
  • The most controversial law relating to Internet usage is the newly introduced HADOPI law, which was forced to be amended after it was found to contradict fundamental human rights
  • The terms of use for French social networks are governed by French laws

There is no specific regulatory system for digital content, although the ‘Informatique et Libertés’ (Act relating to data, files and freedoms) law which was adopted in 1978, created the National Commission on Informatics and Liberties (CNIL), an independent administrative French authority responsible for ensuring the protection of personal data and privacy. This Informatique et Libertés law was amended on August 6th 2004, substantially reducing the reporting obligations of the holders of personal data, as well as increasing the powers of the CNIL regarding on-site investigations and sanctions and strengthening the rights of individuals.  An additional law applicable to Internet usage is LOPPSI 2 (Law Orientation and Programming of Homeland Security). This is a French project that complete revises individual freedoms in France and notably those related to the Internet.  The law contains measures to enhance the penalties for cases related to identity fraud and child pornography.

Case Study: Christophe Grébert

Christophe Grébert is a French blogger who was actively critical of local city politics and the Mayor of Puteaux, Charles Ceccaldi-Raynaud, on his blog.  In 2004, the Mayor issued a complaint for deformation against Grébert. In March 2006, after two years of proceedings, Grébert was released by the 17th Chamber of the Paris Criminal Court, however the Mayor appealed and a retrial was held on 25 April 2007 before the 11th Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Paris. The case was eventually dismissed however it has been greatly commented on by the French blogosphere as well as the traditional French media.

There has been some controversy in France around the newly instated HADOPI law (Loi n°82-652 du 29 Juillet 1982 sur la communication audiovisuelle). The law was initially rejected by the French National Assembly on April 9, 2009 despite strong backing from the President.  The French government asked for reconsideration of the bill by the French National Assembly and it was eventually adopted in May 2009. A month following its instatement the Constitutional Council of France struck down the central and most controversial point of HADOPI, which would have allowed the state to cut off Internet connections of those who use illegal file sharing software for up to a year. This section of the law was out-ruled under the proviso that “free access” to online communications services is a human right according to the French Constitution.  The revised law was eventually passed in October and now requires judicial review before revoking Internet access. The law also makes website owners responsible for illegal comment if they do not notify the relevant parties, by regulating and controlling the usage of the Internet in order to enforce compliance to copyright laws. In addition to these laws, all general laws also apply to social media activity where they are relevant.

All the most popular social networks in France have terms of use that users must adhere to and normally mark as read when they first sign up to the site. Facebook’s Terms of Use state that accounts can either be disabled for repeat offenses or for one particularly egregious violation. Their code of conduct outlines the types of content they do not allow on the site, including any obscene, pornographic, or sexually explicit photos, as well as any photos that depict graphic violence. They also remove content, photo or written, that threatens, intimidates, harasses, or brings unwanted attention or embarrassment to an individual or group of people. Facebook does not allow users to register with fake names, to impersonate any person or entity, or to falsely state or otherwise misrepresent themselves or their affiliations. They also do not allow users to send unsolicited or harassing messages to people they don’t know, and remove posts that advertise a product, service, website, or opportunity.

The Dailymotion Terms of Use are governed by French law and state that the individual user is responsible for the content stored and disseminated through the website. Any content uploaded onto the site by users must not violate intellectual property rights of third parties; cause personal harm or invade privacy; and cannot be not contrary to public policy and socially acceptable moral standards. Any content that does not comply with these terms will be removed and the individual may be liable to specific criminal sanctions if applicable. The Terms of Use for Skyrock are similar: users are committed to “good behavior” on the site and must therefore abide by French copyright and privacy laws. Deviation from the Terms of Use could also results in Skyrock closing an individual’s account.

VI.          Local factors affecting social media

  • Social media communication takes place mainly in French languag
  • Information sourcing and socializing websites are the most popular sites in France according to traffic
  • The home, leisure activities, politics and technology are the most discussed topics online

Predominantly, French is the preferred language for social media communication. The exception to this is on business networks such as LinkedIn, where business language can sometimes be English. However, with the introduction of all the major social media platforms in French language, there is no need for French people to communicate in any language other than French. In fact, before French language versions of social media platforms were introduced, French people were still not using English or any other language to communicate in; instead user numbers were simply lower.

The most popular blogging topics discussed online are the home, leisure activities, politics and technology. Overall, French bloggers are open to engagement from French Internet users. In terms of usage, the most popular websites in France reflect French Internet users’ desire to socialize and find information. The top 5 sites in France by Internet traffic are:

–       Google.fr

–       Facebook

–       Windows Live

–       YouTube

–       Google.com

Internet access in France, in line with the Digital France 2012 report, is seen as a basic human right and access for all is advocated for the years to come. Internet usage currently is, in general, quite representative of the population, however as the broadband infrastructure improves, it is expected that access to social media for individual, business and government purposes will increase.

VII.        Principal data sources

–       Digital France 2012 http://francenumerique2012.fr/

–       L’Insee et la statistique publique http://www.insee.fr/

–       Universal McCann http://www.universalmccann.com/

–       ComScore http://www.comscore.com/

–       Alexa http://www.alexa.com

–       Epreactice http://www.epractice.eu/

–       EU Commission: Smarter, Faster, Better eGovernment http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/eeurope/i2010/docs/benchmarking/egov_benchmark_2009.pdf

–       CNIL http://www.cnil.fr/

–       LOPPSI http://www.loppsi.fr/

–       Tweetelect http://tweetelect09.eu/country/France

–       Journal du Net http://www.journaldunet.com/cc/01_internautes/inter_lieuconnexion_fr.shtml

–       French social media platforms (as listed)

For USG Official Use Only

Share this: