On Sunday, a report published by Le Journal du Dimanche (in French) caused quite a social media storm over in France, as it suggested that the use of realtime social networks could ‘undermine the integrity’ of the upcoming presidential elections and even potentially lead to straight-up cancellation of the election.

The author of the article asserted that using Twitter, Facebook and other realtime social networking and information distribution channels to spread exit poll results before the voting stations close on Sunday April 22 (first round) is against French election laws, which traditional media must abide to avoid getting fined.

Under current rules, French media are prohibited from publishing polls or exit poll results between midnight on the Friday preceding election day until all voting stations have closed on Sunday, in order not to influence voters with early results.

The problem is that France’s polling commission has publicly stated that social networks like Twitter and Facebook fall within the legal definition of ‘media’, which means that the law applies to those services as well.

Considering that the last presidential elections in France were in May 2007, when Twitter and Facebook were still in their infancy, this wasn’t an issue until now.

Franck Louvrier, head of communications for current French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, told Le Journal du Dimanche that “there is a very real risk here” and that they are “facing a media environment that has no limits”.

No word on how social media can also benefit them.