Tech

How kompromat on a close Macron ally went viral

PARIS — It took just 24 hours for Benjamin Griveauxs life to change dramatically. But Russian artist and activist Piotr Pavlenski had planned to bring him down for weeks, if not months.

Griveaux on Friday pulled out of the race to become mayor of Paris over allegations that he sent graphic messages and videos to an unidentified woman.

The sexually explicit content was published Wednesday on a blog registered by Pavlenski in November 2019, and went viral on Thursday after being widely shared, including through private messages by far left and far right groups, screenshots obtained by POLITICO and interviews with intelligence specialists confirmed.

The scandal led Griveaux to step down, but also raised questions over the publication of content potentially infringing on the candidates privacy — its authenticity has yet to be confirmed — for political motives.

“These acts, publishing videos without their authors consent, are criminal offenses in our country,” French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters Friday in Strasbourg.

While his blog post was initially anonymous, Pavlenski soon revealed himself as the author.

Griveauxs lawyer Richard Malka said he was considering legal action.

“We are witnessing a destabilization that reminds me of certain methods previously used in Eastern Europe,” Malka said, describing it as a “well organized” campaign.

While his blog post was initially anonymous, Pavlenski soon revealed himself as the author.

In an interview with the newspaper Libération, he said it was “shocking” that a candidate who invoked family values — Griveaux, a father of three, frequently posed with his wife during the campaign — had an adulterous relationship.

Russian artist and activist, Piotr Pavlenski | Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

Pavlenski, who once sewed his own lips shut, first approached far-left political activists then household media names to make the content public.

His initial efforts didnt pay off: French journalists from investigative company Mediapart declined to use the material, more outraged by invasion of privacy than adultery.

But Pavlenski had other allies who would help him disrupt this crucial French election: Social media users, and groups prone to sharing inflammatory content.

Botnets and anonymous accounts were also involved, although they had a relatively small impact, experts said.

The explicit content that Pavlenski posted on his website “did require a lot of effort to be shared en masse in the beginning and then, once it hit its target conservative audience, it went organically viral,” said Stéphanie Lamy, a consultant on information warfare.

“[Pavlenski] knew how to use digital, male-dominated spaces [such as online forums], where young users are fascinated by this kind of content and make it go viral,” she said.

“For him it was a political act. In the same way that he opposed Putins regime, he was ready to do whatever it takes to oppose Macrons regime …” — Juan Branco

A close friend of prominent figures on the far left and supporter of the Yellow Jackets movement, the Paris-exiled Pavlenski first approached political activists to spread the information. Controversial lawyer and Macron opponent Juan Branco told Le Point he was aware of the upcoming publication of the videos.

“He consulted me as a lawyer,” Branco said. “For him it was a political act. In the same way that he opposed Putins regime, he was ready to do whatever it takes to oppose Macrons regime, which he considers just as repressive.”

Streisand effect and online forums

The blog post first popped up on Twitter on accounts close to populist groups.

Laurent Alexandre, a businessman and essayist who has a lot of supporters among far right groups, was one of the first to tweet the link to his 74,000 followers on Twitter, before deleting his tweet.

“This kind of action can create a Streisand effect,'” said Lamy, referring to the internet Read More – Source

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