US media is reporting that the French government has begun structuring a permanent monitoring and response capability to counter foreign influence operations. According to a Lawfare report:
November 22, 2021 A recent report by Cardiff University showed that pro-Russian trolls have been busy targeting 32 European media outlets, such as Le Figaro (France), Die Welt (Germany) and La Stampa (Spain). France has experienced this wave firsthand. In 2017, hackers affiliated with Russia’s military intelligence (GRU) exfiltrated internal emails and documents from Emmanuel Macron’s campaign team. The “Macron Leaks,” as it was then named, saw a mix of genuine and fabricated campaign materials spread through social networks—starting with WikiLeaks—and amplified by the U.S. far right. In 2020, after the murder of high school teacher Samuel Paty, Turkish-affiliated trolls launched a wide-ranging anti-French campaign, criticizing its principles of laïcité and freedom of expression, amid a moment of deteriorating bilateral relations that led Paris to recall its ambassador from Turkey. Although this foreign information operation did not have the same impact on public opinion as the Macron Leaks, the government perceived it as another wake-up call. In response to these politically destabilizing operations, the French government has begun structuring a permanent monitoring and response capability.
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According to the Lawfare report, France has created an office to counter foreign media manipulation called VigiNum, which began operating last month. The French government allocated an annual budget of 12 million euros to the group, and an in-house expert workforce of 65, comprised of data scientists, social media analysts, and geopolitics experts.
We have extensively covered foreign influence operations targeting France.
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