France is investigating Russia’s alleged role in promoting the so-called Yellow Vest movement after recent reports suggest Moscow-linked news outlets spread false information about the protests.
French security services are looking into whether Russian outlets boosted hashtags promoting the protests, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a Sunday local radio interview. His comments come after reports showed that 600 Twitter accounts pushed the anti-carbon tax protests.
The protests “have been at or near the top” of the list of accounts that Alliance for Securing Democracy monitor, the group’s social media analyst, Bret Schafer, told reporters. “That’s a pretty strong indication that there is interest in amplifying the conflict” for worldwide audiences.
Much of the content from the tweets is coming from Russian-owned outlets RT and Sputnik. Some of their reporting has been splotchy at best, according to Bloomberg News. For instance, both outlets falsely reported that police unions were showing their allegiance to the Yellow Vest movement.
“An investigation is now underway,” Le Drian said. “I will not make comments before the investigation has brought conclusions.”
French officials held out hope that French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision Thursday to nix an unpopular carbon tax might mitigate some of the anti-tax sentiment.
Those hopes were dashed after police arrested more than 700 people Saturday morning and searched protesters for items like the now-famed yellows vests they wear to signify allegiance to the country’s working class. Four people have died and scores more wounded during the weeks-long protests.
The protests, which started in mid-November, are unusual as none of them were sanctioned by the country’s powerful unions or politicians – they are a mixture of right-wing and left-wing populist elements. None of this strife bodes well for Macron, whose approval rating is low.
Only 26 percent of French people say they have confidence in the embattled president, according to a poll from Kantar Public, which surveyed 1,000 people in October. Many French citizens see the carbon taxes as an example of Macron’s inability to understand the plight of the country’s working class.
Other reports are blaming the protests on Facebook’s algorithm. The protests currently roiling portions of France “is a beast born almost entirely from Facebook,” Buzzfeed writer Ryan Broderick noted in a Dec. 5 post. Macron’s sky-high carbon taxes take second-fiddle to Facebook’s algorithm, he suggests.
Broderick did not respond to questions about why the article appears to blame the tools French citizens used to organize rather than the circumstances giving rise to their anger.
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