France Accuses Russia of Orchestrating Online Controversy Over Stars of David Graffiti
November 11, 2023 | by b1og.net
France has accused Russia of orchestrating a digital campaign aimed at stirring up controversy surrounding graffiti featuring Stars of David that appeared on the streets of Paris. The French government claims that Russian bots were used to spread confusion and alarm about the spray-painted stars, leading to concerns about a rise in anti-Semitism during the Israel-Hamas war. The swift removal of the blue stars prompted an investigation into whether they were anti-Semitic and whether they were coordinated from outside France. Since the conflict began, France has experienced a surge in anti-Semitic acts, with over 1,150 incidents reported. France’s Foreign Ministry pointed to Russia’s involvement, highlighting a network of bots affiliated with a Russian group called Recent Reliable News. This discovery was made by Viginum, a French digital watchdog, which aims to detect and analyze foreign efforts to influence public debate online in France. The European Union has already identified this Russian network as part of a larger campaign of information manipulation linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
France Accuses Russia of Orchestrating Online Controversy Over Stars of David Graffiti
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. 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.
Investigations into the spray-painted Stars of David
French police are actively investigating the spray-painted Stars of David to determine if they were motivated by antisemitism. The quick erasure of the graffiti raised suspicions that it was an intentional display of hatred towards the Jewish community. By determining the origin and intentions behind the graffiti, authorities hope to shed light on the incident and ensure the safety and well-being of France’s Jewish population.
Efforts are also being made to establish if the graffiti was organized from outside France. If foreign entities were involved in orchestrating the spray-painting, it could indicate a coordinated effort to sow discord and create tension within the country. The investigation aims to uncover any external influences that may have played a role in the incident.
Concerns about antisemitism in France during the Israel-Hamas war
With the escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict, France experienced a surge in antisemitic acts targeting its Jewish community. Since the start of the conflict, French authorities have recorded over 1,150 incidents of antisemitic acts, almost three times more than the entirety of 2022. This alarming increase raises concerns about the safety and security of France’s Jewish population. France, as well as the international community, must address this rise in antisemitism and take measures to protect the rights and well-being of its Jewish citizens.
France’s Foreign Ministry blames Russia for the controversy
The French Foreign Ministry has pointed the finger of blame at Russia, accusing the nation of orchestrating a digital destabilization campaign. According to the ministry, Russia exploited the controversy surrounding the spray-painted Stars of David as part of an opportunistic and irresponsible strategy. By capitalizing on international crises, Russia aims to create confusion and tensions within the public debate in France and Europe.
France asserts that Russia utilized a network of bots affiliated with Recent Reliable News (RRN), also known as Doppelgänger. These bots flooded social media platforms, including X, with thousands of posts that intensified the controversy surrounding the stars. The French Foreign Ministry’s statements reflect their firm belief that Russia played a significant role in fueling the online turmoil.
Russian network of bots
The involvement of a Russian network of bots adds another layer to the controversy surrounding the spray-painted Stars of David. Recent Reliable News (RRN), also referred to as Doppelgänger, operated a network of 1,095 bots that disseminated posts related to the graffiti on X, the social media platform. These bots are automated accounts designed to imitate human users by generating messages and following users on social media. In this case, the bots were programmed to amplify the controversy and confusion surrounding the stars.
The utilization of bots in online campaigns is increasingly prevalent. These automated accounts play a significant role in spreading misinformation, coordinating malicious activities, and manipulating online discussions. The infiltration of bots into the online discourse highlights the need for effective countermeasures to ensure the integrity and authenticity of online interactions.
Viginum detects Russian activity
Viginum, a French state digital watchdog established in 2021, detected the Russian interference in the online controversy surrounding the spray-painted Stars of David. The watchdog, created in response to previous cyberattacks during Emmanuel Macron’s presidential campaign, is tasked with identifying and analyzing foreign digital efforts aimed at influencing online public debate in France.
Viginum’s analysis confirmed the involvement of the Russian network RRN. The watchdog’s detection of Russian activity underscores the importance of robust systems and agencies that can identify and respond to foreign interference in the digital realm. Efforts to safeguard the online discourse from malicious influences are crucial to maintaining the integrity of public debate.
RRN’s involvement in the graffiti controversy
Recent Reliable News (RRN) and their network of bots played a significant role in amplifying the controversy surrounding the spray-painted Stars of David. The network’s bots published 2,589 posts on X, the social media platform, within a span of under two weeks. These posts contributed to the escalating debate and alarm surrounding the stars.
What’s worth noting is that RRN bots were among the first to post about the graffiti. The French Foreign Ministry highlighted this fact, suggesting that RRN had prior knowledge or involvement in the incident. The role of RRN’s bots in spreading misinformation and intensifying the controversy further solidifies the suspicions surrounding their activities.
RRN’s history of digital information manipulation
Recent Reliable News (RRN) has been identified as a campaign specializing in the manipulation of digital information. In addition to the controversy surrounding the spray-painted Stars of David, RRN has been known to disseminate propaganda in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The campaign utilizes a combination of fake accounts and fake web pages to spread falsehoods and shape narratives.
The history of RRN’s digital manipulation raises concerns about the impact of their activities on public opinion and societal cohesion. By exploiting online platforms, RRN creates an environment conducive to misinformation and division. It is essential to counter these tactics through increased awareness, critical thinking, and robust digital governance.
EU’s identification of RRN campaign as part of Russia’s hybrid campaign
The European Union has identified the RRN campaign as part of a broader hybrid campaign by Russia against the EU and its member states. The campaign aims to manipulate digital information and shape public opinion, utilizing tactics such as those employed in the controversy surrounding the spray-painted Stars of David.
The EU’s acknowledgment of RRN’s role in Russia’s hybrid campaign reflects the gravity of the situation. It underscores the need for coordinated efforts to combat and mitigate the influence of digital manipulation campaigns that threaten democratic processes and public trust.
In conclusion, France’s accusation of Russia’s involvement in the online controversy over the spray-painted Stars of David highlights the vulnerability of digital platforms to manipulation and misinformation. The investigation into this incident, as well as the identification of the Russian network RRN, serves as a reminder of the importance of vigilance in safeguarding the integrity of online discourse. Efforts to combat digital interference and ensure the safety of communities affected by antisemitism must be prioritized to foster an inclusive and harmonious society.