13 Times Misinformation Spread During The French Presidential Campaign

Fake tweets, doctored photos, and twisted claims.

It's presidential election season in France, and since it's 2017, that comes with a hefty dose of rumors, hoaxes, and fake news spread over social media. We have rounded up some of the misinformation going around during the campaign.

Benoit Tessier / Reuters

1. This false claim that independent frontrunner Emmanuel Macron's campaign is funded by Saudi Arabia.

In early March, the fake news website lesoir.info published an article about the supposed funding of Macron's campaign by Saudi Arabia. The site is designed to look like an actual Belgian newspaper called lesoir.be, which quickly denounced the story as fake. Other news sites also shared the story before back-pedaling after Soir's denial. Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a National Front MP and the niece of National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, tweeted the story as well but later deleted it.

2. This old photo repurposed to claim that a firefighter was assaulted by "thugs" and the media ignored the story.

The French Facebook page "I Support Our Firefighters" posted a photo of a firefighter poked in the eye "by thugs" and accused the media of ignoring the story. This fake image, which was shared more than 130,000 times, compares a young black victim of police violence named Théo, who President François Hollande visited in the hospital, to Quentin the firefighter alone in his hospital bed. But the meme recycles and twists an old photo: The firefighter was accidentally injured by a Flash-ball fired by police on the sidelines of a demonstration in 2013.

3. This false Figaro poll showing Marine Le Pen in the lead.

The day after the televised presidential debate on TF1, National Front treasurer Wallerand de Saint-Just published a falsified Figaro poll that received hundreds of shares. The image of the "results" had Figaro's logo on it, and claimed that 32% of respondents said Marine Le Pen had been the most convincing candidate in the debate. However, this poll was nowhere to be found on Figaro's website, and the publication denied any role in creating the image. The National Front official then corrected himself, but blamed Figaro for taking too long to react to "its error."

4. This fake tweet, which shows Marine Le Pen shocked by a "veil" worn by a little girl in a Russian cartoon.

This fake tweet went viral on several Facebook and Twitter pages, some belonging to National Front opponents. The tweet says that Le Pen was "shocked" by the Russian cartoon Masha and the Bear, since the young girl, Masha, is wearing a "veil." Le Pen caused a stir when she refused to wear a headscarf on a visit to Lebanon. But this tweet is fake.

5. This doctored photo that purports to show far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon wearing a Rolex.

Tweets like this, shared more than a hundred times, claim to show Mélenchon sporting a Rolex watch worth €17,750 — at odds with his radical left political leanings. The crude photo montage dates back to April 2016 and frequently reappears on Twitter accounts and Facebook pages affiliated with France's far-right. The self-proclaimed environmental activist who started the post has affirmed over and over again that it was not intended as propaganda but as a joke.

6. And this false claim that Mélenchon once praised the far-right National Front.

The Facebook page "We Love France" accused Jean-Luc Mélenchon of having championed the National Front in the past, based on an incomplete photocopy of an interview with Quotidien de Paris from December 25th, 1991. "The only party that rehabilitates politics is the National Front," the headline read, but the quote is truncated and does not praise Marine Le Pen's party. That didn't stop the post from getting 15,000 shares in less than 24 hours and a ton of pro-National Front comments. Here's Mélenchon's full quote from that interview: "The Socialist Party has abandoned politics. I will tell you something awful: Today, the party that rehabilitates politics is the National Front."

7. This fake photo of a wounded police officer.

Pierre Gaudin, an outspoken supporter of Marine Le Pen on Facebook, posted a photo in February of a severely wounded "French policeman," denouncing public delinquency and an inadequate government response. In fact, the picture, which was already shared on social media last year, dates back to February 2014, and was taken by a Reuters photographer during an anti-government demonstration in Thailand. You can see a small Thai police insignia on the man's right arm.

The picture has been shared nearly 7,000 times since Feb. 20. It's also been reused in different contexts: as an example of "violence" during protests against the labor law, and tweeted by National Front official Wallerand de Saint-Just in April 2016.

8. This Facebook post claiming that the Breton lighthouse in Paris was demolished in order to build housing for migrants.

A Facebook post from the page "The Left Has Killed Me" accused the Paris city hall of having demolished a lighthouse to build studios for migrants in its place. The lighthouse, which dates back to the '90s, was in fact demolished in early February, and will be replaced by "a social residence of 251 studios for students, young workers and migrant workers," according to a Parisien article quoted in the post. However, the deceptively titled post was shared 2,700 times on Facebook.

9. This twisted claim that Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon has been indicted and the media is ignoring it.

Boum : Benoît Hamon vient d’être mis en examen (évidemment, silence média) https://t.co/FLNfotfEdf

In early March, Louis Aliot, vice president of the National Front, shared a Dreuz.info article on Twitter that said Benoît Hamon had been indicted. Aliot was especially outraged by the "media silence" on the development. He accused journalists of having double standards for presidential candidates — Fillon and Le Pen have been indicted over misappropriation of public funds. Hamon ~has~ been indicted, but the indictment dates back to Dec. 7, 2016, and is over an "insult toward an individual" rather than anything to do with corruption. (In France, when someone files a complaint against you for an insult or libel, you get automatically indicted. Many public figures have been indicted for libel or insult.)

10. This false claim that people chanted "Jews, thieves, murderers" at a demonstration against the National Front.

Several National Front officials and right-leaning French-Israeli lawyer Gilles-William Goldnadel have circulated a video of an April 17 demonstration against the National Front, claiming that protesters chanted "Jews, thieves, murderers." But they're actually chanting "cops, rapists, assassins," a common slogan heard at demonstrations against police violence. Several witnesses present that day support this account. Le Pen adviser Florian Philippot still has a tweet up alluding to "anti-Semitic" words chanted by protesters at the demonstration, though there is no proof of them.

11. This false photo of police officers undergoing a "training course of Arab culture."

This picture, which shows two Muslim police officers with a police chaplain, is taken from the book We Are French and Muslims, published in 2010. But it's been circulating for several years with the assertion that officers would take a "training course of the Arab culture." The photo was posted by the page "Rally of Patriots 2" in March, and has been shared thousands of times.

12. This photo of an empty room used to mock Emmanuel Macron (which was actually taken at an event for François Fillon).

Alors, euh, comment dire ? C'est moi qui ai pris cette photo et c'était au meeting de Fillon à Toulouse. Ou alors j… https://t.co/GSvRHDkcgp

Sébastien Foy, a local official who supports François Fillon, tweeted (and then deleted) a photo showing what he said was an empty room at a campaign event for Emmanuel Macron. One can see the black curtains concealing part of the empty rows. Here's the problem: At the back of the room, you can clearly see a photo of François Fillon.

13. This false claim about Macron's "fictitious rent tax."

This particular piece of fake news just won't quit. The website Cyceon.com wrote that Emmanuel Macron wants to impose a new tax on property owners. There's nothing on this in the candidate's policy proposals, but his opponents (especially those who support Republican François Fillon and Marine Le Pen) have latched onto the claim, despite numerous debunks. Other sites, especially Republican Resistance (which shared the photo above) and the satirical, extreme right-wing website BuzzBeed (not to be confused with BuzzFeed, the site you are currently reading) picked up the information.

For more rumors, hoaxes, and fake news circulating during the French election, visit Crosscheck, a collaborative debunking partnership between BuzzFeed News and other media organizations.

This post was translated from French.