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Forget the Russians, are Americans meddling to help boost Le Pen's chances?

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Forget the Russians, are Americans meddling to help boost Le Pen's chances?
Photo: AFP
11:39 CEST+02:00
While all pre-election talk has concerned fears that Moscow will try and influence the French presidential election, new data in France suggests American internet users are working hard to boost Marine Le Pen’s chances of victory.

While Russia has been formally accused of trying to meddle in the French presidential election to seek a favourable outcome, it seems they are not the only ones (alleged) interfering.

The company Linkfluence, which monitors social media channels, released data to BFM TV that suggests American internet users are also trying to influence the outcome of the presidential election by helping to boost Marine Le Pen’s chances of winning.

It comes after news site Buzzfeed claimed in January that Trump supporters were pretending to be French online in a bid to help the National Front’s Marine Le Pen.

According to Linkfluence, which monitors all the millions of content added online,  some 50 percent of all comments or posts made online in the United States were about Marine Le Pen, with Linkfluence’s Guilhem Fouetillou saying there among these there were three times as many positive ones than the negative posts.

Linkfluence, like Buzzfeed did, suggested that it was the hordes of pro-Donald Trump internet users in America who were getting online in droves to back Le Pen.

“Most of these contributions come from pro-Trump accounts that were active during the American presidential campaign,” said Fouetillou.

Certain hashtags, including #MFGA – Make France Great Again (a spin on Trump’s election slogan Make America Great Again) give away the partisan nature of the social media users.

Fouetillou says he can see the influence of the American ‘alt-right’ – an extremist far right ideology, whose followers were accused of helping Trump to power.

Buzzfeed’s article in January included images from a private chatroom they had gained access to called "The Great Liberation of France", hosted on a messaging platform called Discord.

It revealed how Trump supporters are organising online to create fake French accounts on social media.

Marine Le Pen is an admirer of Donald Trump and was quick to congratulate him on his election win in November.

She previously told reporters how Donald Trump would be good for France.

Linkfluence’s chief says the number of pro-Le Pen American social media users is only a tiny proportion of internet users but he says they are a highly organised group, who know how to occupy space online.

But can these online soldiers across the pond really influence French voters and help Le Pen become the next president?

Fouetillou says they can give her a certain boost, but are unlikely to be a deciding factor.

“There are always several factors that determine an election, but the significance of all this noise around Marine Le Pen is that it can give dynamism to her campaign and add to the foreign media coverage around her, which feeds the impression that she is powerful.”

Most of the talk about interference in the French elections has centred around Moscow's alleged attempts to meddle.

Last month the head of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee warned that Russia was interfering in the French election just as it did in the US presidential campaign last year.

Russia 'actively interfering' with French elections, warns US senator

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