The Emmanuel Macron campaign is describing a massive email leak in the final hours of the French presidential election as a deliberate attempt by the far-right “to sow doubt” and is referring to the attack as “a matter of democratic destabilization, as was seen in the United States during the last presidential campaign,” according to the New York Times. The statement was made just minutes before a legal campaign communications blackout went into effect across France.
Some experts have also suggested that the documents may be connected to Russia, and have highlighted the American far-right’s efforts to spread the word of the breach. Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow of the digital forensics research lab at the Atlantic Council, described events following the breach as “the anti-globalists trying to go global.” He said that the efforts of American activists had “helped to push this leak entirely into the camp of the alt-right.”
According to CBC News, the French election campaign commission, meeting in an emergency session on Saturday following the leak, concluded that “a significant amount of data” was leaked onto social media. They added to that their suspicions that a significant amount of fake news had been mixed in, and urged both the French media and citizens “not to relay” the leaked information “in order not to alter the sincerity of the vote.” The order is on top of a regular electoral news blackout in the hours prior to the election regarding any election or campaigning news.
French authorities have yet been able to determine the perpetrators of the hack, but both they and the Macron campaign have revealed that the attack was substantial; Macron’s team described it as “massive and coordinated” and indicated that staffers’ personal and professional emails had been accessed, and their contents leaked online. Those documents, according to the Macron campaign, included campaign finance material, contracts, and a large volume of what they described as decoy documents.
And while the French media blackout has generally held, American far-right sources were quick to pick up on and spread the story.
The story was first picked up by far-right outlet The Rebel, which tweeted a link to the documents along with the hashtag #MacronLeaks – a tweet which was quickly picked up and spread far more widely by WikiLeaks – who continue to insist that they have discovered no fake documents within the leaks, in addition to rehosting the documents. As of the time of this writing, WikiLeaks’ tweets on the Macron leaks had been shared tens of thousands of times. They also posited that the leak was “too late to hit vote but will surely be used to boost hostility to Russia & intelligence spending.”
Meanwhile, far-right activists have allegedly begun to congregate on sites like 4chan and Discord to organize a campaign to spread the leaks, where a concerted effort has already been made to influence the French election toward far-right candidate Marine Le Pen (and previously, in favor of Donald Trump.)
Most observers of the French elections do agree with WikiLeaks on at least one point: that the leaks come too late to influence the election, although the timing is seen as a deliberate effort to prevent the Macron campaign from responding, thanks to the media blackout. But it’s worth noting that many American analysts believe that FBI Director James Comey’s announcement regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails, only days before the November election, may have swung votes by 3-4 points; and while Macron currently holds a massive advantage over Le Pen in election polls, Clinton was projected to win the American presidency by nearly 80 percent.
Regardless of how the French election turns out, Le Pen considers herself and her far-right Front National party to be winners. Formerly a pariah in France for their extremist views, they are now within one step of the French presidency and will likely figure prominently in the upcoming parliamentary election.
[Featured Image by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images]