Thursday

21st Mar 2019

Russia-linked fake news floods French social media

  • Wi-Fi zone outside Pompidou centre in France (Photo: Alessio Milan)

Almost one in four of the internet links shared by French users of social media in the run-up to elections were related to fake news, much of which favoured anti-EU candidates and showed traces of Russian influence, according to a new study.

The survey, by a UK-based firm, Bakamo, published on Wednesday (19 April), looked at 800 websites and almost 8 million links shared between 1 November and 4 April.

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

Of the links, 19.2 percent related to media that did not “adhere to journalistic standards” and that expressed “radical opinions … to craft a disruptive narrative” in what the study called the “reframe” category.

A further 5 percent of links related to “narratives [that were] often mythical, almost theological in nature” or discussed “conspiracy theories” in what the study called the “alternative” section.

The sources shared in these categories favoured anti-EU candidates both on the far right and the far left: Marine Le Pen, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Francois Asselineau, and Philippe Poutou.

They also favoured Francois Fillon, a centre-right candidate who is friendly toward Russia.

Bakamo’s research found that one in five sources in the reframe section were influenced by Russian state media known for spreading anti-EU disinformation, such as RT or Sputnik, and that one out of two sources in the alternative section had Russian roots.

“The analysis only identified foreign influence connected with Russia. No other foreign source of influence was detected”, Bakamo said.

The study said that “established sources of political news” were “still driving public discourse” and were “being shared in greater proportion than all other non-traditional media sources”.

They also noted that while the far-left candidate Melenchon’s campaign team often shared bogus material, Le Pen’s team mostly propagated its own content on sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

But it added that social media users in the reframe category were “very prolific” and “very engaged”, sharing links almost twice as many times as those who followed mainstream sources.

Pierre Haski, a French journalist who took part in the research, noted that there was another “worrying trend as election day nears”.

He said there was a “growing gap among citizens” based on “news reliability and respect for professional and ethical [journalistic] rules” rather than on political affiliation.

The gap meant that people increasingly did not agree on basic facts as opposed to political opinions and that those who no longer trusted traditional media were impervious to debunking efforts, such as Les Decodeurs, a group of fact-checkers working with Le Monde, a French newspaper of record.

Bakamo’s study said the main political themes in the reframe category were those that championed French identity and attacked Islam.

Minor themes also attacked globalisation, big corporations, and US or EU “imperialism”.

It said the influence of Russian sources was the strongest in the French identity, anti-Islam, and anti-globalisation areas, as well as in the areas of “confusion” and “conspiratorial/anti-system” sources shared in the alternative segment.

A French translation of this article may be found here.

A German translation of this article may be found here.

Investigation

Sex and lies: Russia's EU news

France and Germany have been targeted for years with fake news and lies designed to incite sexual revulsion toward migrants and the politicians who gave them shelter.

Interview

Khodorkovsky: Putin's betting on Le Pen

Russia will try to help Le Pen win the French election the same way it helped Trump in the US, Khodorkovsky, a Kremlin critic, has said.

Investigation

Illicit Russian billions pose threat to EU democracy

It cost €11 million to help Le Pen campaign in elections, but it cost the Russian mafia less than €100,000 to hire a former UK attorney general to lobby against EU sanctions.

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  2. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength
  3. May tosses Brexit spanner into EU machinery
  4. Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban
  5. A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension
  6. US glyphosate verdict gives ammunition to EU activists
  7. Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK
  8. EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  3. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  6. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us