Foreign digital interference – France detects a Russian propaganda network (12 February 2024)


M. Stéphane Séjourné, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, today announced that France has detected a propaganda network called “Portal Kombat”. In order to mislead European public opinion, particularly in France, this network, made up of so-called digital information portals, spreads pro-Russian content promoting the Russian invasion in Ukraine and denigrating the Ukrainian authorities.

The detection and analysis work carried out by the VIGINUM department has allowed us to conclude that the network’s activities indeed constitute a campaign to manipulate information on digital platforms involving foreign actors, and that the campaign aims to harm France and its interests. Comprising at least 193 sites and initially covering news from Russian and Ukrainian localities, the network has developed since Russia’s war of aggression in February 2022 and has subsequently focused on the occupied Ukrainian territories and Ukraine’s supporters – including France, Germany and Poland. To amplify the manipulation by reaching a wider audience, the network uses a number of techniques such as selecting pro-Russian propaganda sources based on the targeted locality, mass automation to spread content and search-engine optimization. The technical elements that enabled the French authorities to reach these conclusions are available in the technical report published today by VIGINUM.

France firmly condemns these hostile information manoeuvres. We also repeat that no attempt at manipulation will dissuade France from continuing to support Ukraine in the face of Russia’s war of aggression.

As the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs announced alongside his German and Polish counterparts, France is going to step up cooperation with its Weimar Triangle partners and, more widely, those within the European Union. To protect both French and European citizens, we shall go on uncovering information manoeuvres wherever they originate and continue our efforts to thwart manipulation attempts of Russian origin.