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"The Great Liberation Of France"

by marco Tue Jan 24th, 2017 at 02:16:46 PM EST

Just caught this article by Buzzfeed:

"Inside The Private Chatrooms Trump Supporters Are Using To Manipulate French Voters - Welcome to "The Great Liberation Of France.""

Just as I was starting to hope that the left was catching up with the right in terms of online-to-offline mobilisation, reading this article gave me a reality check.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Snippets from the article below (bold text from the original article).  Curious whether you think this is a tempest in a teacup article, or could be onto something significant:

The user who initially invited BuzzFeed News to "The Great Liberation Of France" wished to remain anonymous and said he believes the Discord group is mostly made up of 4chan users.


"Some chats are very strict on entrance and thoroughly `vet' people in order to verify their claimed identity," he said. "The one I'm referencing to is planning a meet up in the near future."


The large majority of the work being done in "The Great Liberation Of France" is based around creating fake Facebook and Twitter accounts to manipulate French social media users.

The users in "The Great Liberation Of France" want to create as much chaos on social media as possible to make right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen and her supporters in the Front National (FN) seem like the most legitimate voice in French politics.

In screenshots provided to BuzzFeed News, as well as conversations BuzzFeed News observed in the chatroom, users are creating fake accounts for two reasons.

The chatroom's admins have instructed users to make fake Facebook accounts that are "ideally young, cute girl, gay, Jew, basically anyone who isn't supposed to be pro-[FN]." Users are then instructed to lock down these dummy accounts so no one can tell they're fake. Once they have their fake Facebook profiles, they're told to infiltrate the comment sections of large French Facebook pages and post pro-FN memes and jokes about François Fillon, France's current frontrunner for the presidency.

And they're doing something similar on Twitter, creating dozens of French-appearing sock puppet accounts. They then collect all of them on lists and organize campaigns to make things trend in French. ...

"Meme shells" are essentially just blank templates that anyone can load up with text. Members of the Discord group have centralized all of their memes in an easy-to-download database hosted on a site called Dropmark.


Recently, in a sub-room called #Materials, a user started posting transparent cut-outs of Fillon, a former prime minister who is the leading mainstream candidate to take on Marine Le Pen.


Discord is a chat- and voice-based application that has been growing in popularity among gamers and anime fans.

Discord's CEO Jason Citron recently told BuzzFeed News that he's somewhat ambivalent about the growing alt-right presence on the chat application.


A second user, going by the user name @Das Krout, who identified himself as a 16-year-old from Minnesota, said he had seen no proof that the Discord group was communicating with Russian trolls.

"I've been here since it's inception, we've had no Russians what so ever
A bunch of Americans," he said. "There are no Russian trolls. We are the trolls. We are just regular people who are fed up."

@Das Krout said he doesn't consider himself a white supremacist or neo-Nazi, but instead believes that people "have the right to preserve their genetic, racial, and cultural identity."

There's more in the article, obviously.

Anyone have any information / thoughts on:

  • how pervasive these private mobilization communities are
    • on the right
    • on the left
  • how effective are the tactics and tools described in this article
  • how much if any impact might they have on the imminent French presidential election

It's not like we haven't been warned.

From what I understand, the group is mostly made up of Americans. Their main challenge will be how to post on French FB pages without looking obviously "foreign". They may also not be much attuned to the issues du jour in French politics: little coverage of France on Fox News (other than the ridiculously comic) and I don't expect they read Le Figaro or listen to RMC. Not sure how effective they will, unless they hire genuine French provocateurs.

The so-called "fachosphere" does exist on the French web with places like Francais de Souche and other stinkholes; their success at putting people on the street have been very limited. The FN apparatus itself has been much more successful at drawing crowds, using, yes, FB and Twitter.

by Bernard (bernard) on Tue Jan 24th, 2017 at 07:51:44 PM EST
Have they been successfull in the US? There have been veritable troll armies, paid and otherwise yet despite all the histerics I don't see that their influence was anything but marginal.
by generic on Tue Jan 24th, 2017 at 08:05:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thinking about creating fake accounts, sure sheer quantity can have an impact but I can't think of one case of a fake or otherwise no-name account being used to smear a political movement that didn't rely on a minor celeb bad faith actor. And they could always find a genuine idiot if they went looking.
by generic on Tue Jan 24th, 2017 at 08:22:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
see comment "In China" below

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Wed Jan 25th, 2017 at 09:54:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A similar thing at work in Germany?

Reports: Fake news targets Germany's Merkel ahead of elections

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been Europe's main target of fake news articles, the majority of them directed at her open-door policy toward refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East, said a source close to the matter, citing information from an internal EU working group.

The disinformation campaign against the chancellor in the run-up to the 2017 parliamentary elections resembles those made by Russian entities, the unnamed source added, although the information could not be independently verified.

France and the Netherlands, two other EU nations preparing for key elections this year, have also been targeted by disinformation campaigns, the source said, according to news agencies.

by Zwackus on Wed Jan 25th, 2017 at 02:13:06 AM EST
I do have to wonder how much these asshats are just spoiling the water in their own little pools, barely aware of how little the online chat environment in which they thrive actually matters.

Or, conversely, if their true impact amongst "the youths" is simply not understood by old fuddy-duddies like me.

"Creating chaos and disruption, so that (the far-Right) is seen as the only one able to bring order" is a rather familiar strategy, historically speaking, but one has to wonder if this particular strategy can work when the majority of the politically active demographics will never see any of the "chaos" wreaked by this sort of online activism.

Then again, Trump.

by Zwackus on Wed Jan 25th, 2017 at 02:15:59 AM EST
I think the Israeli government has been doing this sort of thing - paying trolls - quite effectively over the years.  I used to blog on the Times website but got a huge amount of abuse there include posted threats ("we know where you live") when I posted pro-Palestinian or anti-zionist comments. Some bloggers won't touch the topic in consequence. That's partly why I moved to ET... Come to think of it, it is a long time since I blogged on the issue questing the viability of the "two state" solution.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 25th, 2017 at 09:39:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
this has been an art form / science for years, professionalized by the state since 2004, affectionately called the 五毛:

Chinese Vocabulary: Internet Commentators Or Wu Mao (网络评论员 或 五毛党)

Chinese Vocabulary: Internet Commentators Or Wu Mao (网络评论员 或 五毛党, in English 50-cent, 5-cent, 5 cent party, 50 cent party, "Wumao Dang", etc. )

In 2004, the Ministry of Education (MOA) and Communist Youth League jointly issued a guideline on internet censorship. The guideline, addressing all Chinese universities, required them to "recruit more than enough number of internet commentators with trustworthy political backgrounds, abundant knowledge on the internet." The purpose was to have them "write and publish posts on hot issues to attract student internet users' viewing or responding, so that the internet discussion would be well guided."

Very soon the guideline was implemented. Henan Province, for instance, issued a notice to all its local universities, further requiring the universities to train the recruited internet commentators for their job and--in order to have them do a good job--to reward them according to their performance. When the notice reached the local universities, the university authorities added more creative ways to keep the quality of such work. Henan Shangzhuan (a local college in Henan) added that the Party secretaries of its various departments, branches and divisions had to hear reports from them regularly, and these Party secretaries would be evaluated based on their work of guiding internet discusssion.


For some of them, the volume of their posts is the key to the payment. Taking Hunan Province as an example, it established a system to connect the number of the posts with their payments. The internet commentators in Hunan are each paid a fixed salary of 600 RMB (less than 100 Dollars), plus a bonus of 0.5 RMB (Wu Mao in mandarin, roughly equals to 7 cents) per post----this is why Chinese netizens call the internet commentators as "Wu Mao Dang" (0.5 RMB Party)--or in brief "Wu Mao."


Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Wed Jan 25th, 2017 at 09:53:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BuzzFeed has translated the article into French:

Plongée chez les trolls pro-Trump qui veulent faire élire Marine Le Pen

Comment des trolls américains créent de faux comptes Facebook et Twitter pour inonder les réseaux de mèmes pro-FN.

posté le 24 janvier, 2017 à 1:14 p.m.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Wed Jan 25th, 2017 at 10:00:32 AM EST
Good: it may get some attention from the "social media community managers" of the main parties and media.
Come to think of it, the famed French people's grumpy skepticism is a good thing...
by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Jan 25th, 2017 at 01:43:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Apparently this has been going on among French astroturfers since at least #RuquierDegage last November:

"La fachosphère derrière l'opération #DemasquonsMacron" | Obs Rue89

Le chercheur Nicolas Vanderbiest a démonté l'opération #DémasquonsMacron, orchestrée sur Twitter par des militants très à droite.


#DemasquonsMacron va se hisser en "trending topics" en tant que sujet émergent, mais ne restera pas longtemps sur la colonne de gauche de Twitter.


A partir de 19 heures, un hashtag qui ressemble à une contre-attaque émerge, #DemasquonsLePen, porté notamment sur Twitter par des comptes revendiquant leur soutien à Emmanuel Macron.

Mais en jouant au même jeu que l'extrême droite, ils ne parviennent pas à obtenir le même écho, si on compare le volume de tweets de chaque hashtag. "C'est totalement contre-productif", juge le chercheur.


Ce type d'opération orchestrée n'est pas nouveau. Pour le chercheur, le premier cas d'astroturfing assumé de la patriosphère est #RuquierDegage, en novembre dernier.

Le 3 janvier dernier, le hashtag #FillonGate avait été utilisé, essentiellement par des comptes de soutien à Marine Le Pen, lors du passage de François Fillon au "20 Heures" de TF1. Fin décembre 2016, la fachosphère et le FN s'en étaient aussi pris au vainqueur de la primaire de la droite et du centre, avec "Farid" Fillon.

Some other visualizations and video in the article (apparently generated by cited researcher Nicolas Vanderbiest from Reputatio Lab), too.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Wed Jan 25th, 2017 at 03:05:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Same astroturfing as François "Farid" Fillon and, before that, Alain "Ali" Juppé. Same technique as in Barack Hussein Obama with strong emphasis on Hussein: see a trend there?

La fachosphère et le FN main dans la main contre François "Farid" Fillon

Le surnom avait déjà été choisi : "Farid". Comme un écho à un certain "Ali". A chaque fois, il suffit de garder la première lettre du prénom, et de l'associer à nom arabe. Le procédé est grossier. C'est d'ailleurs la marque de fabrique de la fachosphère et sa nouvelle émanation, la patriosphère.

Après avoir visé Alain "Ali" Juppé, une partie de cette mouvance extrême sur internet a décidé de s'en prendre à François "Farid" Fillon, grand vainqueur de la primaire de la droite et du centre.

in all this, the French fascists have been operating without the help of the Trumpistas (at least, there's no evidence).

by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Jan 25th, 2017 at 09:07:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Astonishing, and a little terrifying:

"Ich habe nur gezeigt, dass es die Bombe gibt" -- Der Psychologe Michal Kosinski hat eine Methode entwickelt, um Menschen anhand ihres Verhaltens auf Facebook minutiös zu analysieren. Und verhalf so Donald Trump mit zum Sieg. -- by Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus in Das Magazin, translated as "Trump Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself" by aNtiDoTe Zine:

... The world has been turned upside down. The Brits are leaving the EU; Trump rules America. It all began with one man, who indeed tried to warn of the danger, and who still gets accusatory emails. "No," says Kosinski quietly, shaking his head, "this is not my fault. I did not build the bomb. I just showed that it was there." ...

What is Cambridge Analytica Doing in Europe?

... The circumstance of Trump having spent so little money on advertising could also speak for the effectiveness of personality-specific targeting, as could the fact that three quarters of his marketing budget was spent in the digital realm. Facebook became his ultimate weapon and his best canvasser, as a Trump staffer tweeted. In Germany, the rightwing upstart party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) may like the sound of this, as they have more Facebook friends than Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD) combined. ...

... Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, ambitious Front National activist and niece of the presidential candidate, has tweeted that she has accepted the firm's invitation to collaborate. In an internal company video, there is a live recording of a discussion entitled "Italy." Alexander Nix confirms that he is in the process of client acquisition, worldwide. They have received inquiries out of Switzerland and Germany. ...

... Psychometrics, sometimes also known as psychography, is a scientific attempt to "measure" the personality of a person. The so-called Ocean Method has become the standard approach. Two psychologists were able to demonstrate in the 1980s that the character profile of a person can be measured and expressed in five dimensions, the Big Five: Openness (how open are you to new experiences?), Conscientiousness (how much of a perfectionist are you?), Extroversion (how sociable are you?), Agreeableness (how considerate and cooperative are you?), and Neuroticism (how sensitive/vulnerable are you?). With these five dimensions (O.C.E.A.N.), you can determine fairly precisely what kind of person you are dealing with--her needs and fears as well as how she will generally behave. For a long time, however, the problem was data collection, because to produce such a character profile meant asking subjects to fill out a complicated survey asking quite personal questions. Then came the internet. And Facebook. And Kosinski. ...

... The company divided the US population into 32 personality types, and concentrated on only seventeen states. And just as Kosinski had determined that men who like MAC cosmetics on Facebook are probably gay, Cambridge Analytica found that a predeliction for American-produced cars is the best predictor of a possible Trump voter. Among other things, this kind of knowledge can inform Trump himself which messages to use, and where. The decision to focus candidate visits in Michigan and Wisconsin over the final weeks of the campaign was based on this manner of data analysis. The candidate himself became an implementation instrument of the model. ...

... Kosinski has been observing all of this from his office at Stanford. After the election, the university was in an uproar. Kosinski responded to the developments with the most powerful weapon available to researchers: a scientific analysis. Along with his research colleague Sandra Matz, he conducted a series of tests that will soon be published. The first results seen by Das Magazin are unsettling: psychological targeting, as Cambridge Analytica deployed it, increases the clickthru rate on Facebook ads by more than sixty percent. And the so-called conversion rate (the term for how likely a person is to act upon a personally-tailored ad, i.e. whether they buy a product or, yes, go vote) increases by a staggering 1400 percent.* ...

* The study mentioned made a series of comparisons: a product was advertised online in two ways--one tailored to fit the character profile of a consumer and the other designed to clash with their character--and the respective conversion rates measured.

Read the whole thing.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Wed Jan 25th, 2017 at 03:53:20 PM EST
The latest political scandal in France, started, not by US-based Alt-right trolls, but in the good old fashioned French way: Le Canard Enchaîné.

French candidate Fillon's lawyer says he confident, but supporters worry - Reuters

A lawyer for Francois Fillon went to the financial prosecutor's office on Thursday to defend the French presidential candidate against press allegations that his wife had received a salary for a fake job, a charge that could harm his bid for the Elysee.

The satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine reported this week that Penelope Fillon had been paid some 600,000 euros (£511,828) for many years of employment as a parliamentary assistant to Fillon, then to his replacement as a National Assembly lawmaker and also for work at a cultural journal.

It said its research had showed there was no evidence she had ever really worked.[..]

The image conveyed by the Welsh-born Penelope Fillon's own rare public comments and glossy magazines is of a woman leading a country life and keeping home for her family in their 12th century chateau near Le Mans, west of Paris.

Last October she told a newspaper, Le Bien Public: "Up to now, I have never been involved in the political life of my husband."

by Bernard (bernard) on Thu Jan 26th, 2017 at 08:11:31 PM EST
Everyone is in their own bubble to a large extent. The "fachosphere" is huge and virulent, but over the past year it's Mélenchon's bunch who have been the best organized and effective.

Among political figures,
Marine Le Pen has the most followers on Facebook, where the far right is strongest (three in the top ten)
On Twitter, it's pretty balanced among the political tendencies.
The fastest movers are Hamon, followed by Mélenchon and Macron.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Sat Jan 28th, 2017 at 03:27:12 PM EST

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