Russia and the French presidential election: The Kremlin interference

21 April 2017
EUobserver.com Brussels

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen meets Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow on 24 March.
French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen meets Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow on 24 March.

By flooding French social media with fake news and openly supporting far-right leader Marine Le Pen, the Kremlin is weighing in for the most anti-EU candidate in the 23 April runoff.

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 19 April, looked at 800 websites and almost 8 million links shared between 1 November and 4 April.

19.2 percent of links related to media that did not “adhere to journalistic standards” and that expressed “radical opinions … to craft a disruptive narrative” fell under what the study called the “reframe” category. A further 5 percent related to “narratives [that were] often mythical, almost theological in nature” or discussed “conspiracy theories” fell under what it 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 Mélenchon, 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 exposed to influence by Russian state media known for spreading anti-EU disinformation, such as RT or Sputnik, […]

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