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World
28 Jul 2017

Did Russia interfere in French elections? Facebook, US say yes!

They've done it again. We are talking about Russia, elections and spying.

Confirming earlier speculations that Russia may have interfered with the recently held French elections, American sources stated that Russia spied on French President Emmanuel Macron's campaign through fake Facebook profiles.

While Russia had been repeatedly denying these allegations, US intelligence had speculated the same as early as May.

Is this really true?

In context

French election hacking: All trails lead to Russia
Outside interference in the 2017 French elections

Context

Outside interference in the 2017 French elections

President Macron's Le Republique En Marche Party came to power with a landslide victory against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen last May.

Russia emerged as a likely suspect when about 9 giga-bytes of the Macron campaign's e-mails were leaked by hackers.

US NSA immediately traced it back to Kremlin.

Mounir Mahjoubi, LREM digital director confirmed the same although he cited lack of proof.

Details

How did they manage this?

According to sources, Russian agents created about two dozen fake accounts infiltrate into Macron's supporters circles in social media to spread misinformation on the campaign.

These agents posed as 'friends of Macron's associates' friends.

Facebook traced these activities back to Russia's GRU military intelligence units known as 'Fancy Bear' in cybersecurity circles, the same group responsible for the infamous 2016 US election hacking.

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Spying on social media: LinkedIn too!

While there are very few publicly known instances, social media has become an espionage paradise. British Intelligence Agency MI5 in 2015 had warned that adversary powers were using LinkedIn to connect and extract information with their government officials!

Facebook responds

Details

Facebook responds

Facebook confirms that they used automated and human detection techniques to detect and deactivate spy accounts.

In a Congressional Committee briefing, they further conveyed that over 70,000 accounts were suspended in France for spreading election-related propaganda, against 30,000 accounts which were deactivated in April.

Facebook believes that their mission was to get their targets login information or download malicious information, which they failed at.

No we didn't! says Kremlin

Russian Defence Ministry spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied that Russia interfered with French elections. He termed these allegations, "a lie... and not true". When contacted by Reuters, the Russian Defence ministry did not respond.

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