Macron Sets Up Fake-News Agency to Shield Election From Meddling

With the presidential election just around the corner, the French government is creating a national agency to fight foreign powers that might try to influence the results through fake news.

The cabinet adopted on Tuesday a decree to set up a “service of vigilance and protection against foreign digital interference,” according to its agenda.

“The agency will identify threats and disinformation coming from abroad,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said after a cabinet meeting, citing Russia and Turkey as states that are potentially hosting people susceptible of “interfering” in France’s national affairs.

President Emmanuel Macron has said he feared attempts by Turkey to meddle in future French elections, but it wasn’t clear if he was referring to the April 2022 ballot or June’s regional contest. When internal emails were published on social media during Macron’s 2017 campaign, an episode known as “Macronleaks,” his aides pointed the finger at Russian hackers.

The head of the defense and national security service, Stephane Bouillon, has told lawmakers the agency will start operating in September and will employ around 60 people who’ll be trained to spot foreign interventions and bots re-tweeting posts on social media.

Bouillon said a referendum on the independence of New Caledonia will be monitored to detect any attempts by foreign powers to influence the vote.

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