Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

Anti-Macron leaks try to sway French election

  • Leaks and the tweets discrediting Macron were released just as the official campaign for Sunday's election was closing, when candidates are banned from speaking until the end of the vote. (Photo: Reuters)

Thousands of documents on the campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron were released online on Friday evening (5 May) in what appeared to be a last-minute effort to destabilise him ahead of Sunday's run-off against far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Macron's En Marche! (Marching forward) movement said in a statement that it had been "the victim of a massive and co-ordinated hacking that gave rise this evening to the diffusion on social networks of various internal information (emails, accounting documents, contracts …)”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • WikiLeaks, the site founded by Julian Assange, had also published hacked documents to weaken Hillary Clinton. (Photo: acidpolly)

It said the documents posted on the internet, under the hashtags #MacronLeaks and #Macrongate, were "fake documents added to authentic documents in order to sow doubt and disinformation".

It said that the operation was "manifestly a destabilisation of democracy, as we saw it in the US during the last presidential campaign" and that the authors wanted to "harm the En Marche! movement a few hours before the second round".

Macron's campaign did not say who it thought was behind the operation.

The release of documents appears to have been well coordinated and followed the model of what US intelligence alleged was a Russian-led campaign last year against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump's opponent.

The documents seem to have been first posted in a file-sharing site and relayed by 4chan.org, an online message board.

The 4chan.org board was already used in recent weeks to create anti-Macron memes.

Earlier this week, it was also used to spread a fake story that Macron had hidden funds in the Bahamas.

Just hours later, on Wednesday evening, Le Pen hinted during a TV debate with Macron that information on the accounts would be "revealed in the coming days or weeks".

Friday's leaks were released by Wikileaks with the #MacronLeaks hashtag. It said the files contained "many tens of documents".

The whistleblower website created by Julian Assange added credit to the leaks by saying they were "a significant leak" in which it had "not yet discovered fakes" and that it was "not economically feasible to fabricate the whole".

During the US campaign, Wikileaks was used to release thousands of internal documents that had been hacked from Clinton's Democratic Party's networks.

According to Nicolas Vanderbiest, a Belgian expert who has been monitoring how fake news and rumours were spread on social media during the French campaign, the hashtag #Macrongate was first used by Jack Posobiec from The Rebel Media, a right-wing Canadian outlet.

Posobiec was also instrumental in spreading the rumours on Wednesday about accounts in the Bahamas.

Originating from Posobiec and Wikileaks, dozens of French and international pro-Russian and pro-Trump accounts tweeted about the leaks, Vanderbiest found. He also found that many of these accounts were used to spread the Bahamas rumour.

The leaks and the tweets were released just as the official campaign for Sunday's election was closing.

Starting from midnight on Friday until the end of the vote on Sunday evening, French law prevents candidates and their supporters from speaking publicly.

In a "recommendation to media" released during the night, the French electoral commission said that "the free expression of the voters' suffrage and the sincerity of the vote [were] at stake".

The commission asked media not to publish the content of the leak and reminded that propagation of fake news could be punished as a crime.

Macron's statement was released just before the speaking ban.

At the same time, the leaks were used by leaders of the National Front (FN), Le Pen's party.

In a tweet, the FN's number two and Le Pen's political strategist Florian Philippot asked if the leaks would reveal "things that investigative journalists have deliberately kept quiet about."

He said the alleged media silence was a "frightening democratic wreck".

Earlier in the day, Philippot, who is a also member of the European Parliament, had posted what looked like a smartphone screenshot in which an En Marche! section in Reims, in eastern France called on supporters to "kill" Le Pen.

In his tweet, he asked Macron for an explanation about the alleged message. But the screenshot was quickly debunked as a photomontage.

Philippot's tweets and Le Pen's announcement of the Bahamas story demonstrate that the far-right FN has not hesitated to use fake news, or unverified news, to campaign against and discredit Macron.

A probe was opened by prosecutors over the Bahamas story after Macron filed a complaint. He said on Thursday that Le Pen had "allies which are linked to Russian interests".

The last opinion polls published before the end of the campaign showed that Macron could beat Le Pen on Sunday by 61-63 percent against 37-39 percent.

Friday's operation may not swing the vote, but it could help Le Pen gain a better result, as well as weaken Macron at the start of his mandate and ahead of legislative elections in June.

In messages on Twitter, just before publishing the leaks, WikiLeaks said that they came "too late to shift the election".

Pro-Russia lobby divided on French vote

Influential members of the Franco-Russian Dialogue, a pro-Russia lobby group, do not agree whether Le Pen or Macron should become president.

News in Brief

  1. Visegrad countries meeting with Israel called off
  2. EU ministers call climate change 'direct and existential threat'
  3. Seven MPs leave Britain's Labour Party
  4. Czech PM: May's EU elections 'most important ever'
  5. 'History will judge us': May tells MPs on Brexit
  6. Trump warns EU on release of Islamist fighters
  7. Venezuela expels 'conspiratorial' MEPs
  8. Holocaust dispute upsets Israel's EU lobbying

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  2. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  3. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  4. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland
  5. ESA pushback against new EU space agency plan
  6. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  7. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  8. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us