May 6, 2017 Last Updated 8:21 am

French media handcuffed by last minute election interference as hackers target Macron campaign

A news blackout that began at midnight today prevents the French media from reporting on the presidential campaigns, or the massive data leak published yesterday in an attempt to swing the election towards the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen

The French go to the polls tomorrow, and while there is a black-out of political news in France, the world keeps spinning and news keeps happening. So, it is hard for a news junkie to simply turn it off for the weekend.

Having said that, there is little news from the world of digital publishing — Time Inc. or tronc did not announce a sale (I better double check that), and no one releases earnings reports on a Saturday, Apple is off so no new apps or updates will be released — so what we have instead is more of the same, the dreadful news from the world of politics.

And make no mistake, the news is dreadful. As you may have heard, the Russians are at it again, dumping 9GB of dates presumed to be from internal documents from the Emmanuel Macron campaign. No one knows really what is in there, and what is real and what is manufactured. The data was posted to Pastebin (since removed) and appear to come from the same hackers that attacked the DNC last year.

The twist in this story, though, is that French election laws are very different than in most countries. This morning The Guardian did a good job of describing the laws that prevent the media in France from reporting about the election after midnight Friday/Saturday. So, the data dump, which occurred just prior to the midnight deadline will be known about in France, but few details will be discussed via the mainstream media. But social media, of course, will go crazy (at least in France).

The Guardian: Article L49 of the electoral code states it is illegal to “broadcast to the public by any means of electronic communication anything that could be considered electoral propaganda” or for anyone to “bring to public attention any new element of electoral argument at a time when the target has no possibility to provide a useful response before the end of the election campaign”.

Last year, TNM launched a second website in order to cover politics and the media. The idea was that the two were so intertwined that there would be a need to discuss events outside of TNM. The site was launched, and soon suffered DDoS attacks and plenty of trolls and bot comments due to the fact that much of the posts discussed the media’s coverage of Donald Trump, mostly critically. Though the new site was nonpartisan, the post reflected what the media was saying about politics, and so often reported on Trump’s outrageous claims and threats against his rival.

But the site did not attract the kind of traffic numbers I expected, and since I was fighting every day just to keep the site online, I decided to shutter the site. But if there was one theme to what I wrote on the site it was that there was significant inference in the US election through online actors, and that the US media was not paying close enough attention to it. As Hillary Clinton was still leading in the polls, it looked like the efforts were being wasted, but it didn’t turn out that way.

Now, here we are, six months later, and again an election of a democratic, western government is being attacked. At some point this has to matter to us, no? At some point, we have to ask ourselves why it is so important to the Kremlin that rather dim-witted businessman from NYC and extreme-right politician in France are their preferred political counterparts? What damage will be done before those in the west react and put an end to this?


Libération front page: ‘Do what you want but vote for Macron’

If there is an interesting twist to today’s news about the French election hack, it is that there seems very little chance that it will have much of an impact. Unlike in the US, where the polls showed that the election was close, polls in France show Emmanuel Macron well ahead of Marine Le Pen, by about 20 points. Further, while some worry about a Le Pen surge, the polls have been accurate all along. The correctly predicted the first round results, and there was no Le Pen surge to be found then. So, what is to be gained by the data dump? Are the hackers simply throwing down the gauntlet to western governments, in essence saying that nothing is beyond their reach?

The Guardian, Kim Willsher and Jon Henley:

Emmanuel Macron’s campaign hacked on eve of French election

The French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by a “massive and coordinated” hacking attack just hours before voters go to the polls, according to his campaign team…

…Tens of thousands of internal emails and other documents, some said to be false, were released online overnight on Friday as the midnight deadline to halt campaigning passed.

Macron’s En Marche! team said it was a clear attempt to destabilise the election. Faced with the “gravity of the situation” it would be taking all steps to throw light on who was behind the “unusual operation”.

AFP: Joshua Melvin:

French authorities took a hard line Saturday on what presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron called a “massive” hacking attack on his campaign, warning on the eve of the vote that anyone spreading the information could be committing a crime…

…The dissemination of such data, which have been fraudulently obtained and in all likelihood may have been mingled with false information, is liable to be classified as a criminal offence,” France’s electoral commission said in a statement.

Le Monde, with AFP and Reuters:

En Marche! denounces “massive and coordinated” piracy of the Macron campaign

Translation: In a statement issued on the night of Friday 5 May to Saturday 6, the team of presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron denounced a “massive and coordinated piracy action” of “internal information of various kinds (mails, accounting documents, Contracts …)” of its electoral campaign.

This text from En marche! followed the online publication, earlier in the evening, of numerous documents presented as “#MacronLeaks” on social networks. The documents, in .eml format, appeared in the form of links published on the Pastebin site, a sort of popular online notebook for computer scientists and groups of hackers because it allows publishing documents in an anonymous way.

The first message was relayed on the 4chan forum, a forum used by the American extreme right, and on accounts pro-Trump English language Twitter accounts, before being relayed by through the Twitter accounts for Wikileaks, that gave them global visibility.

The Washington Post, James McAuley:

The dark history at the heart of the French election

The French call it “the past that will not pass.”

This year’s election in France has proven that phrase — first coined by prominent French historian Henry Rousso — to be more than prescient. In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, France’s complicity in the Holocaust and, to a profound degree, its colonial crimes have been defining themes of the most contentious presidential campaign in recent memory. When voters go to the polls Sunday, they will choose between warring interpretations of France’s past as much as between different visions for its future…

…In one of Macron’s most controversial decisions on the campaign trial, he went in February to Algeria, which France had annexed for 132 years, and called on the French state to apologize formally for its crimes as a colonial power, especially in the bloody war for Algerian independence between 1954 and 1962. France’s history in that war, Macron said in an interview days later, represented “crimes and acts of barbarism” that today deserve to be labeled “crimes against humanity.”

For months, Le Pen has harped on Macron for those three words, accusing him once again in a televised debate Wednesday of “insulting” the French people.

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