Bord Foren

logo-news

France blames Russia for a digital effort to whip up online controversy over Stars of David graffiti

PARIS (AP) — France says it has been the target of a Russian online destabilization campaign that used bots to whip up controversy and confusion about spray-painted Stars of David that appeared on Paris streets and fed alarm about surging antisemitism in France during the Israel-Hamas war.

The 250 or so quickly erased blue stars are now the subject of French police investigations seeking to determine whether the graffiti were antisemitic, as Paris’ police chief and others initially suspected, and if they were organized from outside France.

The stars’ stenciling on walls in Paris and its suburbs last month quickly fomented debate and alarm on social media and concerns about the safety of France’s Jewish community, the largest in Europe.

Since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, triggering their latest and deadliest war, French authorities have counted more than 1,150 antisemitic acts. That’s nearly three times more than all acts against French Jews in 2022, the Interior Ministry says.

Other news
FILE - In this Saturday Nov. 29, 2014 file photo, French far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen and her father Jean-Marie Le Pen applaud in Lyon, central France. A march against antisemitism this weekend in Paris, with the prime minister, government members, political parties and citizens in attendance, is fraught with discord over the planned presence of far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Her father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen has been convicted numerous times of antisemitism and racism. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, File)French far-right leader Marine Le Pen raises a storm over her plan to march against antisemitismPSG's Warren Zaire-Emery, left, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the French League One soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Montpellier at Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France, Friday, Oct. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)PSG teenager Warren Zaïre-Emery handed first France call-up for European qualifiersFILE - French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti arrives at the Elysee Palace for the fist cabinet meeting since French President Emmanuel Macron 's reelection, on May 23, 2022 in Paris. France’s justice minister goes on trial Monday Nov. 6, 2023 on charges of using his office to settle personal scores, in an unprecedented case that has raised concern about checks and balances in French democracy. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)French justice minister is on trial accused of conflict of interest

In a statement Thursday evening, France’s Foreign Ministry pointed a finger of blame at Russia, saying a Russian network of bots whipped up controversy about the stars with thousands of posts on X, the platform previously known as Twitter.

“This new operation of Russian digital interference against France testifies to the persistence of an opportunistic and irresponsible strategy aimed at exploiting international crises to sow confusion and create tensions in the public debate in France and in Europe,” the statement said.

READ:   TikTok ends retail business in Indonesia after ban on social media shopping

It said the bots were affiliated with a Russian network — Recent Reliable News, also identified as Doppelgänger.

The Russian activity was detected by Viginum, a French state digital watchdog set up in 2021 after hackers targeted Emmanuel Macron ‘s successful campaign for the French presidency in 2017. The core mission of Viginum is to detect and analyze foreign digital efforts to influence online public debate in France.

Viginum determined that a network of 1,095 bots affiliated with RRN published 2,589 posts on X in under two weeks, “contributing to the controversy surrounding the stenciled Stars of David,” the French Foreign Ministry said.

Viginum also found that the RRN network appeared to have been informed about the graffiti before other posters on X, the ministry said. It said RRN bots first posted about the stars on the evening of Oct. 28 — 48 hours before other photos of the stars started to appear on X.