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Can’t find any GIFs of the Olympics? That’s because they’re banned

The Rio Olympics is likely to be the most talked about sporting event on social media during the course of this month. Much of the chatter surrounding the Olympics on the likes of Twitter and Facebook will be missing some key visual elements, however, as a result of the rules imposed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The Olympics governing board has issued a slate of social media rules that ban publishers from sharing GIFs and Vines of the event. Additionally, it has also prohibited the public from broadcasting livestreams whilst in attendance.

For those unfamiliar with the format, GIFs are short animated clips that receive heavy circulation online. GIPHY (a search engine for GIFs that has been integrated into Twitter and Facebook) claims that GIFs for real-time events are its biggest draw. The same goes for Twitter’s video-looping platform Vine, home to user-generated clips that often go viral.

Related: Making an animated GIF is easier than you think with this app

The IOC’s guidelines state the following in regards to online coverage of the Olympics by media companies: “The use of Olympic Material transformed into graphic animated formats such as animated GIFs (i.e. GIFV), GFY, WebM, or short video formats such as Vines and others, is expressly prohibited.”

The rules, which were published in May 2015, have been receiving a fair amount of criticism on social media following a tweet shared by USA Today editor Natalie DiBlasio on Thursday, reports The Guardian.

It’s not just news outlets that are bearing the brunt of the IOC’s restrictions. The general public are not allowed to broadcast their own livestreams of any of the Olympic events. “Broadcasting images using livestreaming apps such as Periscope is also prohibited,” state the IOC rules. Therefore, if you’re lucky enough to be attending the games in Rio, don’t even think about telling your friends about it on Facebook Live.

This isn’t the first time that restrictions have been placed on video content from a live sporting event. In 2014, England’s Premier League tried to stamp out unofficial Vines of goal highlights from soccer games with the aid of Twitter. The Premier League claimed that the clips were “illegal” and that it was protecting its intellectual property.

In the case of the Olympics, the IOC will have a hard time enforcing its rules seeing as the vast majority of GIFs are created by users, stemming from sites such as Tumblr and Reddit. Meanwhile, the re-circulation of existing GIFs by media companies remains a grey area. So stopping the spread of GIFs on social media will be virtually impossible.