Europe

Fact-checking fake news in the French election

Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron Image copyright Getty Images

The far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, and centrist politician Emmanuel Macron are tied on 25% each in the latest poll that asks how people will vote in the first round of the French presidential election on 23 April.

The latest poll conducted by LeMonde/Cevipof surveyed 14,300 people between 31 March and 2 April. It suggested that in the second round vote on 7 May, Mr Macron would beat Ms Le Pen, with 61% to her 39%.

Voter certainty was up by five points, with 64% of those surveyed feeling sure about their decision.

The BBC continues its collaboration with CrossCheck to verify and debunk fake news stories in the run-up to voting.


1. FAKE: Emmanuel Macron wants to establish Sharia (Islamic law) in the French region of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean.

Image copyright Resistance Republicaine
Image caption Emmanuel Macron "wants to establish Sharia in Mayotte"
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 30 March 2017
  • IMPACT: The article was widely shared, particularly by anti-immigration and anti-Muslim social media groups
  • CLAIM: The French website, Resistance Republicaine, describes itself as against "Islamisation, the Anglo-Saxon model, and liberal progress". The site claimed that Mr Macron planned to "establish Sharia in Mayotte", including allowing polygamy
  • FACTS: The claim surfaced thanks to a speech by a Macron supporter on the island, who has no official connection to the presidential candidate nor to his En Marche party

Resistance Republicaine quotes Mohamed Bacar Mcolo, who was interviewed on 22 March on a local Mayotte channel and said Mr Macron would like to delegate "powers" to the island.

However, the official Macron campaign team denied the claims to CrossCheck and said Mr Mcolo was not an official representative of the party. It added that even though Mayotte enjoys devolved powers, Sharia would not be part of it.


2. FAKE: Jewish tombs in Pantin were desecrated in an act of anti-Semitism.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Translation: Pantin cemetery… Jewish tombs vandalised… during the night of Thursday to Friday.
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 24 March 2017
  • IMPACT: The publication Europe Israel claimed "dozens of tombs have been destroyed and/or vandalised". Two days later the same website posted photographs of the cemetery that were re-posted by other social media accounts. A tweet by @frisson2com was retweeted more than 800 times
  • CLAIM: Europe Israel describes itself as an independent news site that is committed to "actively demonstrate its support for Israel, for its legitimate right to exist as a State of Right and Democracy". It claimed that the tombstones were damaged in an anti-Semitic attack on the Jewish cemetery
  • FACTS: The images of the damaged tombs spread on social media and, two days later, Paris City Hall issued a press release saying a police investigation had concluded that a truck driver travelling over the speed limit had hit the tombstones while trying to avoid a car
Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Translation: Picture taken this morning: Pantin cemetery, Jewish section: a "crazy truck"? People need to stop lying and treating us like idiots…!

Europe Israel claimed to have received photos and videos from the public, maintaining in a follow-up article that "the theory of the road accident is highly unlikely".

But the press adviser to the mayor of Paris shared two pictures of the truck, which had been taken by the authorities responsible for upkeep of the cemetery:

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Translation: 2 photos for those who continue to say that the tombs of the #Pantin cemetery were desecrated. No, it was indeed a road accident.

3. FAKE: Moscow will help Marine Le Pen win the elections.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Translation: This Kremlin tweet was deleted in 5 minutes. Word for word it says that "Moscow will help Le Pen to win the elections".
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 24 March 2017
  • IMPACT: The post was retweeted more than 4,000 times and triggered rumours of the Kremlin's assistance to the National Front presidential candidate
  • CLAIM: The Russian news website, Life, belongs to News Media, which was founded by the Gabrelyanov family, which has repeatedly expressed support for President Putin. But it is not a state-run media outlet. The post claimed that "Moscow will help Le Pen win the elections"
  • FACTS: The post links to an opinion column by political scientist Dmitri Rodionov titled: Le Pen is scared of anyone. It does not make any allegations of Kremlin support for Ms Le Pen. It states that she is not deterred by opinion in Europe of her visit to Russia. The piece was published on the day Ms Le Pen visited Russia

Life posted: "Moscow will help Le Pen win the elections." Although the tweet was deleted five minutes later it led to rumours of Kremlin support. The deleted tweet still exists on a Twitter account that belongs to Life.


4. FAKE: Marine Hotel in Paris to be converted into museum about slavery.

Image copyright Riposte Laique
Image caption Website Riposte Laïque said the Marine Hotel in Paris would be converted into a slavery museum
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 18 March 2017
  • IMPACT: Several websites reported on the museum "conversion" and the rumour was widely spread on social media
  • CLAIM: The Marine Hotel on Place de la Concorde in Paris, which is the former ministry of the Navy and Colonies, will be converted into a memorial focusing on slavery and its abolition
  • FACTS: The rumour was based on an article published by Minute, an extreme right-wing website, in which it cited a report on the remembrance of slavery given to the Interior Minister in March. In the report, the authors suggested several locations including the Marine Hotel, which is currently being renovated. The Centre for National Monuments was contacted by CrossCheck, which asked if the claim was true. It replied: "The answer is no"

5. FAKE: Al-Qaeda supports Emmanuel Macron.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Twitter account states: Al-Qaeda has chosen its candidate and it is #Macron…
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 22 March 2017
  • IMPACT: The post on Twitter account @AudreyPatriote was shared by more than 400 accounts, prompting claims that Al-Qaeda had pledged support for Mr Macron
  • CLAIM: The tweet included a screenshot of an article from a newspaper that is affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The tweet was captioned: "Al-Qaeda has chosen its candidate and it is #Macron…"
  • FACTS: Although the article was published in Al-Masra, which is a newspaper affiliated with Al-Qaeda, it does not state any support for Mr Macron. The article focused on the presidential candidate's visit to Algeria in February, where he described colonisation as a "crime against humanity"

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By Wais Bashir, UGC and Social News team