French Twitterati furious over ‘Russophiles’ report, launch ‘Russian bots’ flashmob

The French Twittersphere is on fire after a report leaked accounts of ‘Russophiles’ tweeting on the Emmanuel Macron bodyguard scandal. Politicians Jean-Luc Melenchon and Marine Le Pen were shocked to find themselves blacklisted.

The now widely-discussed report was released by EU DisinfoLab – a Brussels-based non-governmental organization. Its stated mission is to fight “disinformation with innovative methodology.”

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The NGO decided to counter this very disinformation over Emmanuel Macron’s very own ‘Watergate’ scandal which involved his protester-beating bodyguard Alexandre Benalla. Macron’s ‘Rambo’ case has been blazing in the headlines for nearly a month now. New details, the president’s reaction and lengthy op-eds on the consequences of the ‘Bennala affair’ are being released by media on an almost daily basis, along with heated discussions on social platforms.

The EU DisinfoLab report stressed that an “extraordinary” number of Benalla-linked tweets had been published, twice the number of those affiliated with the #JeSuisCharlie trend. The group stressed there were so-called ‘Russophiles’ linked to this activity. 

It said that it explained in the report what exactly the word ‘Russophile’ means. This is someone who shares “publicly and regularly articles from On Events and Sputnik, which are state-funded Russian media” and who promotes “the pro-Russian narrative,” according to the NGO.

To make the findings even more transparent, the Brussels-based group leaked the Twitter accounts of these very ‘Russophiles’. Jean-Luc Melenchon, a 2017 presidential candidate and Emmanuel Macron’s most trenchant critic, found his name on the ‘blacklist.’

“Hey, stupid spook! I'm not a Russian bot. It's just me, Melenchon, who tweets against you! If you need to leave me to remember, it’s that you're even dumber than you look,” the enraged leader of La France Insoumise (FI) political party angrily tweeted.

Another FI politician also found her Twitter account on the list. “Surprised to find myself on this list [which links] me to the supporters of [Vladimir] Putin,” Mathilde Panot

. A journalist from French newspaper Le Monde Ariane Chemin was also tagged among the ‘Russophiles.’

After the explosive report EU DisinfoLab released a statement in which it insisted that it neither spoke about “any interference by the Russian state in the creation of the Benalla case, nor about the massive use of ‘Russian bots.’” 

Another Macron’s presidential rival, Marine Le Pen from the National Rally (NR) – previously known as the National Front – was also among the 55,000 ‘Russophiles’ named. “Privacy, censorship, manipulation of the info, Nice New World!” she wrote.

Sloppy cyrillic, new names & blacklisted numbers

The waves of anger which ‘Russophiles’ unleashed on Twitter are reaching new heights. After they found their names on the EU DisinfoLab list, many people chimed in with sarcastic comments under the hashtag #FichagePolitique (political database).

Some even changed the names of their accounts into numbers by which they were listed by the NGO. Thus, a Twitter user @Ros_Jo21 turned into ‘Russian bot n° 21705.’  and someone named Domi Jeannes added that she is “number 6661 on the list.” 

Others went even further and renamed their accounts in Russian: “Лемаркич matricule 31884,” "Franck Noir  Чёрный Франк – Opposant N°2045.” To ‘prove’ that they were true ‘Russian bots’ the ‘blacklisted’ users even started writing awkward phrases in Cyrillic.


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