French mayor bans 'anarchical' Pokemon settlement in village

A man plays "Pokemon Go" at a popular PokeStop in Hanoi, Vietnam on Saturday 13 August 2016. One week after being released in Vietnam, the game has become one of the most talked-about topics in the Southeast Asian country. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

PARIS — A French mayor has denounced the "anarchical settlement" of "Pokemon Go" characters on the "territory" of his eastern village and has ordered the game's creator to remove the virtual creatures.

Bressolles Mayor Fabrice Beauvois said Tuesday that he has mailed a decree to California-based Niantic Inc. and The Pokemon Company to make sure they stop setting up Pokemons in the village of about 800 inhabitants northeast of Lyon.

In his decree, the mayor says the search for Pokemons puts pedestrians and drivers at risk because players get inattentive while watching their smartphones and that it may also result in groups of people forming at night.

The game, increasingly popular around the world, sends players into the real world to search for digital monsters known as Pokemons, which appear on their smartphone screens.

Beauvois insisted in a phone interview with The Associated Press that his order, issued last week, is only targeting the two companies, not the players. He said that Bressolles is the first French municipality to issue such a decree.

The mayor lamented the settlement of Pokemon characters on the "territory" of his village without Niantic asking for prior authorization.

"When a cafe or a restaurant owner wants to open a business in any French town, they have an obligation to request prior authorization to the mayor. The rule applies to all people wishing to set up an activity or occupy a space on a public property. So it applies to Niantic as well, even though their settlement is virtual," Beauvois said.

Beauvois maintains the "Pokemon Go" phenomenon is spreading in a "contagious" way, that the game may lead to a "dangerous addiction" among young people and that it is his responsibility to ensure public tranquility and order.

"They (Niantic developers) use the entire planet as a playground," he said.

The mayor said he wants to raise a debate about the issue and that local citizens are happy with the decree. He acknowledged he is unaware of any incidents related to a Pokemon search in his village but he wants to keep his village "quiet." He was told Pokemon figures have been found by Bressolles' war memorial.

Following recent complaints, Niantic has removed game stops from sensitive sites, including from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Japan's Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Cambodia's genocide museum.

Niantic didn't immediately respond to a message seeking a comment on the mayor's decree. However, last week a Niantic spokesman said in a statement that the company is "moving quickly to review and address all such requests" and that property owners can request the removal of a stop by visiting the "Pokemon Go" website.

Iran has prohibited "Pokemon Go" entirely, Israel has banned it from military bases and Indonesia has barred it from the presidential palace, citing national security issues.

In France, authorities have often tried to regulate new technology that oversteps traditional legal boundaries, targeting companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google or Uber in the past.

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