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German state election exit polls leaked on Twitter

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German election officials are once again shaking their fists at Twitter after forecasts for several state elections were leaked ahead of schedule.

It's the second time that German election data have prematurely circulated on the Web2.0rhea service.

On Sunday, a pair of Twitter users posted exit poll results for state legislative elections in Saarland, Thuringia and Saxony about 90 minutes before polling stations closed. Germany has criminalized the early release of exit poll figures in order to avoid influencing constituents who have yet to vote. Those caught leaking the data can be punished with a fine up to 50,000 euros.

Although the Twitter users didn't say where the information came from, the results published — showing heavy losses for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) — were only about a percentage point off from the first round of exit polling shown on television after polling stations closed.

The suspicion is that the data was leaked from either a political party or the media, as both receive the information ahead of time to prepare speeches and news reports.

One of the leaky Tweets came from the account of Patrick Rudolph, head of the CDU in the city of Radebeul in Saxony. Rudolph denies publishing the information and said he has deactivated his account because of the incident.

"I don't know who wrote it," he told the online news magazine Spiegel.

Meanwhile, Wolfgang Bosbach, a senior CDU official, called the leaks "damaging to democracy." As he told the local daily, Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger, "There is a danger that an election could be falsified." Officials are also concerned that similar leaks could threaten the general election on September 27.

The leakage is the second time Twitter has been used to spoil the country's election results. Late last May, two parliamentarians broke protocol, tweeting 15 minutes before the results were officially announced that the Federal Assembly had reelected German President Horst Köhler to a second term. ®

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