Examples of high profile misinformation or disinformation events in France include rumors that Macron had an offshore account, combating the spread of online misinformation, fake news on French election results ahead of the actual election, a law to fight the spread of misinformation during elections, "MacronLeaks", medial literacy and online safety through formal education, and co-octing of French unrest to spread disinformation. The details of the findings were entered in the project spreadsheet.
Below is a deeper dive into each of the above events.
Rumors on Macron's offshore account
- In an effort to discredit Macron ahead of the 2017 French presidential elections, some 7000 Twitter users shared images of two documents that supposedly identified Macron as the owner of an offshore account in the Caribbean.
- The first document was purported to be an operational contract for the creation of a limited liability company, La Providence, while the second one appeared to be a piece of official correspondence documenting a bank transfer from the above mentioned company.
Combating the spread of online misinformation
Fake election results news
- Fake news about results of the French presidential elections circulated on social media ahead of the actual elections.
- Research found that many of the sources were "exposed to Russian influence".
- This came after Facebook had suspended 30,000 suspected automated accounts in France.
Law fighting spread of misinformation during elections
- A French law to fight the spread of misinformation was passed in November 2018.
- It provided the definition of "fake news" and was designed to enact strong rules on the media during electoral campaigns in the three months preceding any vote.
- It builds upon an 1881 law that outlaws the dissemination of "false news".
Misinformation to influence election outcome
- "MacronLeaks" was an instance of a potentially disruptive disinformation in the run up to the 2017 French election.
- Documents were circulated online as purported "evidence of Macron's tax frauds and other illicit activities".
- Conclusion from official investigations revealed that there was no evidence to support the allegations and that some conclusions were based on erroneous translation of French.
Medial literacy and online safety through formal education
- The French Ministry of Education introduced Media and information literacy as a "subject incorporated into compulsory schooling programs at primary and lower secondary schools".
- "The main instrument made use of by the Minister of National Education, which aims to teach children how to decode information and show proof of vigilance with regard to media and the internet, is the Media and information literacy (EMI — Education aux médias et à l’information) program, which aims to create 'cybercitizens'."
Co-acting of French unrest to spread disinformation
- 125,000 Gilets Jaunes took to the streets in a destructive riot after President Macron gave in to their original demands and suspended tax increase.
- On Twitter, outsiders (including far-right figureheads, conspiracy theorists, and pro-Kremlin influence networks) capitalized on interest in the Gilets Jaunes to spread disinformation.
- Research reviewed by wired revealed that the accounts were responsible for thousands of posts on Twitter that were shared by thousands others, unaware that they were spreading disinformation.
To find high profile misinformation or disinformation events in France the research team looked for information surrounding Digital Media Literacy in government databases such as EACEA national policies platform and French media websites like France24. These sources provided insightful information on these events. Other major news websites like wired and New York times were also consulted for the information.