July 25, 2021

The government will create a service to fight against foreign interference in the media

It was a project in the making for a long time, and which until now was only a simple task force called “Honfleur”. At the turn of a hearing by the Defense Committee of the National Assembly, the Secretary General of Defense and National Security (SGDSN) Stéphane Bouillon confirmed, Wednesday, June 2, that he intended to put from the start of the school year in September, a real service with national competence in charge of tracking down foreign interference in the field of information.

This future service, which will be directly attached to it, should eventually have around sixty people. “It will not be for us to say which information is correct or inaccurate”, made a point of clarifying Mr. Bouillon, aware of the sensitivity of the subject, as the campaign for the presidential election of 2022 approaches. “It is not a question of providing information”, he also added, “But to identify what is becoming pandemic on the informational level”, and if it emanates from“A foreign country or a foreign organization, which thus aim to destabilize the State on the political level”, he clarified.

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The work of this future service should above all be carried out in open sources, using technical data. Hence its attachment to the SGDSN, on which administratively depends the National Information Systems Security Agency (Ansii) which deals with cyber threats. Its goal: to allow “Politicians, diplomats, justice and the press to note that out of 400,000 tweets of such and such information, 200,000 come from a bot farm [des comptes automatisés] in a region outside our country, or that such a debate comes from a troll farm ”, gave as an example M. Bouillon.

“Transparent” work

Formal attribution to a foreign power, a technically delicate and highly political subject, as well as the response to any possible interference, will however be the responsibility of the Elysee, after examination by the defense council. In cyber matters, until now, France has never formally designated a foreign state. A restraint applied including in the case of the intrusion and the theft of data having concerned the teams of Emmanuel Macron, during the presidential campaign of 2017, where some had seen a Russian maneuver. In this sense, is France preparing to follow the American example of all-out attributions?

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