Rio is a GIF-free Zone

American news editor points out that the IOC has banned GIFs and Vines of the Rio Olympics, in the latest restrictions on social media sharing.
If for some reason you have missed out on the craze, GIFs and Vines are short, looped video clips that are massively popular online, sometimes passed around to the extent that they go viral. They last just a few seconds, but are usually quite amusing.

While this is not really 'new' news - the IOC official rule book was issued in May 2015 - USA Today editor Natalie DiBlasio brought a clause of the International Olympic Committee's guidelines to the attention of the Twittersphere on Thursday:

'The use of Olympic Material transformed into graphic animated formats such as animated GIFs (ie GIFV), GFY, WebM, or short video formats such as Vines and others, is expressly prohibited.'
This is bad news for fans who hoped to make shareable clips of the Games, and visually document their experience via this medium.

Livestreaming of the Games has also been banned, to protect the exclusive rights of broadcasters to the content they have paid billions of money for. The IOC rules explicitly state: 'Broadcasting images using livestreaming apps such as Periscope is also prohibited'.

Also, it comes as an irritating reminder for GIPHY (a GIF search engine) and Twitter-owned Vine, who might miss out on user-generated clips from the most talked about sporting event of the summer. Both have claimed that clips capturing moments from live events are their most viewed, so this ban could represent a major loss for them.

However, it is hard to say how effectively the IOC will be able to enforce its restrictions, given the speed at which visual content is circulated online. Most clips are created by users and it is basically impossible to control sharing on social media sites like Reddit and Tumblr.  There is also a grey area when it comes to re-sharing existing media, so good luck to the IOC trying to stop Olympic footage circulating.

This news added fuel to the fire of bad press surrounding the Games, leading up to the Opening Ceremony on Friday, as we were already in shock at the ridiculous list of words and hashtags banned from use on social media.

Rule 40 caused a stir as it forbids the use of words so closely tied to the Olympics as 'challenge', 'effort' and 'victory'. The purpose of the ban, according to the IOC, is 'to preserve the unique nature of the Olympic Games by preventing over-comercialisation'. Oh, and of course, to protect official sponsors like McDonalds, Nike, and Visa from what the IOC deems 'ambush marketing' tactics. 
The list of banned words includes:

2016, Rio/Rio de Janeiro, gold, silver, bronze, medal, effort, performance, challenge, summer, games, sponsors, victory and all possible variants on 'Olympian' that you could possibly come up with.
For those who thought they could get past the ban with a little Latin, 'Citius, Altius, and Fortius' are strictly not allowed.

This is a bit of a problem for sponsors of athletes who might want to tweet their progress or, heaven forbid, congratulate them. That's prohibited between 27 July and 24 August.

In 2014, Aussie ski resort Mount Hotham were told off for tweeting their congratulations to Greta Small, a local skier in the Winter Olympics. They were asked to take down their offensive tweet: 'Well done #gretasmall we are proud of you! What a race! #alpineskiing #GoAUS #Olympics #ASPIREtoGreatness.'

The IOC is not the first to clamp down on sports footage being shared online. The Premier League tried to stop highlights being spread on Vine in 2014, as clips of goals and users' reactions to them are often posted seconds after the ball hits the back of the net. The League argued they needed to protect the 'intellectual property' of their broadcasters who pay a lot of money for rights.

In a dramatic turn of events last year, the Twitter accounts of sports sites Deadspin and SBNation were closed down. This happened after the NFL, UFC and NCAA took action against them, claiming they had violated the Digital Media Copyright Act.

We'll have to see what all the IOC's attempts to control visual media of the Games amounts to, and whether they'll have any success in preventing the onslaught of fans' GIFs and Vines. It's hard to imagine such a ban on the creative responses of millions of worldwide viewers having much impact at all, as the public begin to flock to social media to celebrate their most memorable #Rio moments.

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