BuzzFeed News reported on a secretive online campaign, organized in the “private chatrooms [of] Trump supporters,” to “create as much chaos on social media as possible to make right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen and her supporters in the National Front (FN) seem like the most legitimate voice in French politics” ahead of French elections.
The manipulation of social media by trolls, shell accounts, and bots has had a significant impact on Western elections in recent years. Elections in the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, and Germany have all been affected by a surge of hyper-partisan social media posts sowing confusion about basic facts to support right-wing candidates. Breitbart News, which also pushes false, misleading, hyper-partisan stories, is undertaking an expansion into France, Germany, and Italy, compounding concerns that the site will promulgate misleading or outright fake news to provide a boost to far-right candidates.
The January 24 BuzzFeed report investigates “a chatroom called The Great Liberation of France,” an organized hub for “creating fake Facebook and Twitter accounts to manipulate French social media users.” In a Google Doc labeled “‘MEGA GENERAL’ — ‘Make Europe Great Again,’” group members, mainly Trump supporters, “teach fellow right-wing trolls how to make memes that would be believable in their country” and then direct “users to 4chan’s politics message board, 8chan’s The Bureau of Memetic Warfare, and Reddit’s /r/The_Europe” to “post pro-FN memes and jokes about François Fillon,” the front-runner for the French presidency. The “Great Liberation of France” is but one “part of a larger constellation of private rooms” that are working together to, in the words of one anonymous member, “pull the next revolution in France”:
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 National Front (FN) seem like the most legitimate voice in French politics.
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.
The group has made it extremely easy for English-speakers to participate, as well. They have a Google Doc labeled “MEGA GENERAL” — “Make Europe Great Again” — that they use for planning out social media campaigns.
It has instructions for how users can help teach fellow right-wing trolls how to make memes that would be believable in their country. “You have to provide reconnaissance for us. WE DON’T KNOW SHIT about your internet segment,” one section reads.
The document ends by directing users to 4chan’s politics message board, 8chan’s The Bureau of Memetic Warfare, and Reddit’s /r/The_Europe.
The “Great Liberation Of France” Discord group is part of a larger constellation of private rooms and they will share links between each other.
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.
“Immediately after the election, this dude coming from a bunch of [IP addresses] posts regular threads on 4chan, inviting people to join his little troll army to pull the next revolution in France,” the anonymous user said. “The chat has been much quieter in weeks, but I suspect that’s because they have moved more to private twitter chats.”
“The shared agenda is to get far right, pro-Russian politicians elected worldwide. It’s not so much a conspiracy as it is a collaboration,” the anonymous user said. “The alt-right sees the US as compromised and Russia as the good guys who will ‘remove kebab’ (kill Muslims).”
It’s simply that they’re learning from each other and figuring out how to spread their pro-fascist memes.