Massive email hack threatens French presidential election

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France is fighting to keep frontrunner Emmanuel Macron’s hacked campaign emails from influencing the outcome of the country’s presidential election Sunday, issuing a warning Saturday that republishing the data could be a criminal offense.

According to Macron’s team, a “massive” hack resulted in the publishing of emails, documents and campaign financing information online on Friday just prior to the end of the campaign. France then entered into a period of silence during which candidates are forbidden to comment on the leak.

Prior to Friday’s leak, the latest polls showed former investment banker and economy minister Macron leading 62 to 38 percent over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

The French election commission released a statement Saturday that said, “On the eve of the most important election for our institutions, the commission calls on everyone present on internet sites and social networks, primarily the media, but also all citizens, to show responsibility and not to pass on this content, so as not to distort the sincerity of the ballot.”

Despite its best efforts, the commission may find it challenging to enforce its rules since many voters obtain much of their news online and there are many anonymous users.

French media did address the hack, with the left-leading Liberation website prominently reporting on it, and television news channels choosing not to mention the leaks.

Le Monde newspaper said on its website, “If these documents contain revelations, Le Monde will of course publish them after having investigated them, respecting our journalistic and ethical rules, and without allowing ourselves to be exploited by the publishing calendar of anonymous actors.”

The #Macronleaks hashtag appeared often on social media on Friday night, with Florian Philippot, deputy leader of Le Pen’s National Front party, tweeting, “Will Macronleaks teach us something that investigative journalism has deliberately kept silent?”

No one has claimed responsibility for the leaks, although Macron’s political movement released a statement calling the hack an attempt to destabilize democracy and damage the party.

En Marche! reported that the leaked documents revealed normal operations of a campaign and included information on campaign accounts. It contended that the hackers had interspersed false documents with authentic ones to “sow doubt and disinformation.”

Reuters noted that “Sunday’s election is seen as the most important in France for decades, with two diametrically opposed views of Europe and the country’s place in the world at stake. Le Pen would close borders and quit the euro currency, while Macron wants closer European cooperation and an open economy.”

H/T: Reuters


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