French Twitterati furious over ‘Russophiles’ report, launch ‘Russian bots’ flashmob
The now widely-discussed report was released by EU DisinfoLab – a Brussels-based non-governmental organization. Its stated mission is to fight “disinformation with innovative methodology.”
The NGO decided to counter this very disinformation over Emmanuel Macron’s very own ‘Watergate’ scandal which involved his protester-beating bodyguard Alexandre Benalla. Macron’s ‘Rambo’ case has been blazing in the headlines for nearly a month now. New details, the president’s reaction and lengthy op-eds on the consequences of the ‘Bennala affair’ are being released by media on an almost daily basis, along with heated discussions on social platforms.
The EU DisinfoLab report stressed that an “extraordinary” number of Benalla-linked tweets had been published, twice the number of those affiliated with the #JeSuisCharlie trend. The group stressed there were so-called ‘Russophiles’ linked to this activity.
It said that it explained in the report what exactly the word ‘Russophile’ means. This is someone who shares “publicly and regularly articles from RT and Sputnik, which are state-funded Russian media” and who promotes “the pro-Russian narrative,” according to the NGO.
To make the findings even more transparent, the Brussels-based group leaked the names of the active Twitter accounts. Jean-Luc Melenchon, a 2017 presidential candidate and Emmanuel Macron’s most trenchant critic, found his name on the ‘blacklist.’
“Hey, stupid spook! I'm not a Russian bot. It's just me, Melenchon, who tweets against you! If you need to leave me to remember, it’s that you're even dumber than you look,” the enraged leader of La France Insoumise (FI) political party angrily tweeted.
Eh stupide barbouze ! Je ne suis pas un bot russe. C'est juste moi, Mélenchon, qui tweete contre toi ! Si t'as besoin de me ficher pour t'en rappeler, c'est que tu es encore plus bête que tu en as l'air. Signé matricule 14452.— Jean-Luc Mélenchon (@JLMelenchon) August 9, 2018
One more FI politician also found her Twitter account on the list. “Surprised to find myself on this list [which links] me to the supporters of [Vladimir] Putin,” Mathilde Panot tweeted.
Another Macron’s presidential rival, Marine Le Pen from the National Rally (NR) – previously known as the National Front – was also among the 55,000 accounts named. “Privacy, censorship, manipulation of the info, Nice New World!” she wrote.
RT’s Charlotte Dubenskij, who has repeatedly covered news events in France, also found herself on the list.A journalist from French newspaper Le Monde Ariane Chemin was also tagged.
After the explosive report EU DisinfoLab released a statement in which it insisted that it neither spoke about “any interference by the Russian state in the creation of the Benalla case, nor about the massive use of ‘Russian bots.’”
Alexandre Alaphilippe, a director at the EU DisinfoLab, told RT that the study never intended to find “Russian meddling” in the Benalla scandal. “We never said this.The fact that lawmakers or the government spokesperson immediately exploited this for political ends, created a sort of hype that was never the object of our study,” he said.
But independent journalist Luc Rivet told RT that the organization is not the innocent neutral, but rather the respectable face of the ongoing information war - with Russia as the target.
"DisinfoLab is the embryo of the propaganda machine of the EU. And many nationally-oriented politicians will be furious with these revelations," he said while on-air.
Sloppy cyrillic, new names & blacklisted numbers
The waves of anger which ‘Russophiles’ unleashed on Twitter are reaching new heights. After they found their names on the EU DisinfoLab list, many people chimed in with sarcastic comments under the hashtag #FichagePolitique (political database).
Some even changed the names of their accounts into numbers by which they were listed by the NGO. Thus, a Twitter user @Ros_Jo21 turned into ‘Russian bot n° 21705.’ and someone named Domi Jeannes added that she is “number 6661 on the list.”
Others went even further and renamed their accounts in Russian: “Лемаркич matricule 31884,” "Franck Noir Чёрный Франк – Opposant N°2045.” To ‘prove’ that they were true ‘Russian bots’ the ‘blacklisted’ users even started writing awkward phrases in Cyrillic.
France’s National Commission on Informatics and Liberty confirmed that it received numerous complaints from Internet users who are worried about being listed by the NGO.