France The journalist infiltrated the campaign of Eric Zemmour, the French presidential candidate, and saw the activities of the “shadow army” of social media

Journalist Vincent Bresson quickly rose to “elite forces” in the campaign organization.

In France the reporter infiltrated the right-wing presidential candidate Eric Zemmourin campaign and saw, among other things, blatant racism and the practical operation of the “shadow army” of social media.

The mission of the Shadow Army was and is to join a huge number of different Facebook groups, from football club fan groups through pizza lovers to anti-vaccine and radical political groups. This is what the reporter says Vincent Bresson in his book published on Thursday Au cœur du Z or At the heart of Z.. French newspaper Le Monde published excerpts from the book and a British magazine The Guardian interviewed Bresson.

Once in the groups, members of the Zemmour campaign will start posting messages in support of Zemmour, linking to stories and videos about Zemmour in a positive way, and asking what people think of Zemmour. Everything is done hidden, links to the campaign are not revealed. Communication between campaign members is handled in secret in the Telegram application.

The goal is to comment on Facebook as often and as much as possible, and fill it with content that supports Zemmour.

“They can cut and paste material from the central site of the campaign, they can publish exactly the same content in 20 different groups. It’s all about creating the illusion of a huge crowd, a huge online movement, ”Bresson told The Guardian.

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In addition responsible for the digital strategy of the campaign Samuel Lafont According to Bresson, organizes volunteers to also post on Twitter under a specific topic positively related to Zemmour. The goal is to make the messages trend, ie to gain visibility, which in turn increases the likelihood that traditional media will also catch on to them.

When Zemmour’s Instagram account was suspended for a while last summer, campaign volunteers were given the #STOPcensure theme to #trend.

According to Bresson’s book, one of the volunteer forces has focused on making Wikipedia affordable for Zemmour. Above all, they guarded an article about Zemmour, which was the most read Wikipedia article in France last year with 5.2 million views. The link to the article about Zemmour, on the other hand, is intended to be added to as many other Wikipedia articles as possible.

The Wikipedia administrator interviewed by Bresson said the activities of Zemmour activists on Wikipedia are unprecedented for the French political movement. Activists are doing everything they can to circumvent Wikipedia’s guidelines for neutrality rules. According to a Bresson report, one long-standing and trusted French Wikipedia administrator is also a Zemmour activist. Wikipedia considers this user’s edits to be automatically verified, Bresson writes in Le Monden.

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Lafont says it’s just a “Wikipedia game”, with the left turning Zemmour’s page in a negative direction and his supporters in a positive direction, Lafont said. To Nice Matin magazine.

In the same journal, president of the French Wikipedia Foundation Capucine-Marin Dubroca-Voisin said it was common for “facilitators to try to turn pages for political purposes”. Instead, the revelation of an old and trusted administrator as a Zemmour activist has, according to Dubroca-Voisin, caused a scandal in the French Wikipedia community, “as if the bomb had been dropped”.

Bresson had infiltrated Zemmour’s campaign organization for about three months and quickly became a credit factor. Bresson tells The Guardian that he was surprised at how quickly he was involved in important campaign activities, eventually even “elite troops” sleeping at Zemmour’s campaign headquarters in the 8th arrondissement of Paris.

“I was amazed at the lack of security measures. I changed my last name and came up with a job at a communications agency, but my identity was never verified, ”Bresson told The Guardian.

According to Bresson, he testified to a number of blatantly racist comments from both volunteers and campaign staff, including the use of the n-word.

Last in January Zemmour was fined in court for hate speech. He has appealed the verdict. In addition, Zemmour has received two fines for hate speech in the last decade. In addition to the convictions, his comments on immigration and Islam have been the subject of criminal investigations more than a dozen times.

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Zemmour also favors a far-right conspiracy theory of “population change”.

Bresson told The Guardian that he had infiltrated Zemmour’s campaign because there is at least a small chance that Zemmour will be elected president.

In recent opinion polls, the current president, the center-liberal Emmanuel Macron seems to be winning a clear reading in the first round, but the prospect for the second to second round is going to be a really tough competition. In that regard, the center-right Valérie Pécresse and two radical right-wing populists, i.e. Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour have been almost level in opinion polls. Also a left-wing radical Jean-Luc Mélenchon has strained in opinion polls.

In the second round, Macron would beat everyone else by a fairly clear reading, according to recent opinion polls.

The first round of the French presidential election will be held on April 10 and the second round on April 24.

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