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Russian spooks tried to game French election

by on27 July 2017

Used Facebook to try to sink Macron

Russian spooks had a crack at gaming the French elections using fake Facebook personas, according to a US congressman and two other people briefed on the effort.

About 24 Facebook accounts were used to spy on Macron campaign officials and others close to the centrist former financier as he sought to defeat far right nationalist Marine Le Pen and other opponents in the two round election.

Facebook confirmed it had shut down the fake accounts which were spreading misinformation about the French election. What was not known was that the spooks attempted to infiltrate the social networks of Macron officials.

Russia has repeatedly denied interfering in the French election by hacking and leaking emails and documents, but then it always does. It is standard procedure for nation states including China, the US and Israel, during hackings to deny it was there and it was already broken.

US intelligence agencies told Reuters in May that hackers with connections to the Russian government were involved, but they did not have conclusive evidence that the Kremlin ordered the hacking.

Facebook confirmed it had detected spying accounts in France and deactivated them. It credited a combination of improved automated detection and stepped-up human efforts to find sophisticated attacks.

Company officials briefed congressional committee members and staff, among others, about their findings. People involved in the conversations also said the number of Facebook accounts suspended in France for promoting propaganda or spam - much of it related to the election - had climbed to 70,000, a big jump from the 30,000 account closures the company disclosed in April.

The spying campaign included Russian agents posing as friends of friends of Macron associates and trying to glean personal information from them, according to the U.S. congressman and two others briefed on the matter.

Facebook employees noticed the efforts during the first round of the presidential election and traced them to tools used in the past by Russia’s GRU military intelligence unit, said the people, who spoke on condition they not be named because they were discussing sensitive government and private intelligence.

Last modified on 27 July 2017
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