Sunday

21st Oct 2018

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 money poses 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.

News in Brief

  1. Germany leads EU criticism of Saudi Arabia
  2. Huge pro-EU march takes place in London
  3. Macedonia MPs back name deal in initial vote
  4. EU to open trade talks with US on beef
  5. EU court orders Poland to suspend firing judges
  6. Japan to focus on circular economy at G20
  7. Italian budget 'significant deviation' from rules, says EU
  8. Podemos initiates debate on legalising marijuana in Spain

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. What Italy's budget row is actually about
  2. EU preparing 'concentration camps' for migrants in Africa
  3. Poland to respect EU injunction on judicial purge
  4. EU votes on Facebook and plastic This WEEK
  5. Top EU banks guilty of multi-billion tax fraud
  6. Polish left a glimmer of hope in fight against illiberal democracy
  7. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  8. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us