Address by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the French Senate - 16 April 2018
Closing speech by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs
"International conference, “Civil societies, media and public authorities: democracies facing the manipulation of information” – Paris, 4 April 2018 (extract)
"But the most serious case is when fake news is part of a comprehensive strategy, an action with strategic significance aimed at destabilizing institutions themselves by targeting a population. Here the term “fake news” is inappropriate and insufficient; it must be replaced by the term “manipulation of information”, which I propose to define on the basis of three criteria. Firstly, it’s an orchestrated campaign involving both state and non-state actors. Secondly, it involves the widespread dissemination of deliberately-fabricated fake or biased news, which spreads virally because it’s automated and coordinated. Thirdly, this strategic action has a hostile political objective: to dominate, interfere with and destabilize the populations, institutions and states targeted, in order to influence their choices and undermine the autonomy of their decisions and the sovereignty of their institutions.
The complexity of these tactics has to be clearly grasped. Campaigns of this kind combine both real and distorted information, as well as exaggerated facts and entirely made-up news stories. They’re sometimes based on information obtained fraudulently, as was the case with the hacking of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign messages or, before that, of the Democratic Party’s servers in the United States.”
Read the full speech (in French)
New Year’s Speech to the Press by Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic. Paris, 3 January 2018 (extract)
“This would have no impact if fake news were just a global hoax, but the reality is that there exists a strategy and a funded one, too, aiming to nurture doubt, forge alternative truths, make people think that what politicians and the media say is always a lie to a greater or lesser extent. In a clever illusion, lies are dressing themselves as truth hidden from the people, intentionally shrouded from view by the elite, whoever they might be. The burden of proof has been reversed: while journalists constantly have to prove what they say – in accordance with the ethics of their profession, they must show what they say or write to be true –, those spreading fake news shout out: “It is your responsibility to prove that we are wrong!”.
Because we have let quantity, the sharing of information, the ability to spread it as widely as possible and sow doubt almost everywhere, become synonymous with truth. Conspiracies and populism are leading the same fight, the fight to sap all confidence in the democratic system, to make it seem a fools’ game, a collection of false pretences, and it is you, it is all of us who are under attack from this strategy in favour of determined propaganda.
This rise in fake news now goes completely hand in hand with this illiberal fascination that I was talking about, because the funding often comes from the same sources, it is often used by powers who take pleasure somehow in the weaknesses of democracy, its extreme openness, its inability to sort, order and recognize a form of authority at the end of it all.”
Address by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Presentation of France’s international digital strategy at thecamp Aix-en-Provence, 15 December 2017 (extract)
“As I was saying, the second issue is to respond appropriately to this new challenge to our democratic life posed by the intentional and targeted propagation of fake news in the digital space.
The much greater freedom of information stemming from the digital age can be a target for arbitrary political power. It can also be an instrument for manipulation by various actors, including the major powers. The most recent elections, including in France, have all seen the spread of fake news and hacking aimed at disrupting public order, compromising the sincerity of the election poll and thus creating confusion, doubt and discord. It is an attack on the very sovereignty of the targeted States, which takes advantage of the platforms’ passive attitude to this unacceptable phenomenon - passivity which, I must clearly say, borders on irresponsibility.
Buoyed by a cynical vision of the digital space, the perpetrators of these manoeuvres try to turn the very principles on which these democracies are based against them - openness, freedom of information and communication - to make them instruments for interference and destabilization. This is a new age of propaganda. Misinformation is not, of course, a new phenomenon, but the digital revolution and how it affects how the public, and particularly our young people, get their news, provides it with unprecedented scope. There is a threat to our very democracy on a scale which we have not yet fully realized. This interference must be dealt with through a combination of action from the public authorities, corporate responsibility and vigilance from civil society and the media.
I will soon organize an event focusing on these issues to identify specific areas on which we can work with all relevant actors and to discuss the international initiatives which we could take.”
Learn more about France’s International Digital Strategy
Professional Journalism and propaganda
The French President explained the difference during a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart (Versailles, 29 May 2017)