The manipulation of information is “extremely difficult to fight while remaining in the respect of the law”, assures a specialist

The geopolitologist Frédérick Douzet explains that if the principle of the manipulation of information has existed for a long time, it is the “way in which it is propagated” that is new.


The manipulations of information are “Extremely difficult to fight when you want to respect the law and democratic values”, because they can be “Legitimate” or “Clandestine and illicit”, explained Wednesday, June 2 on franceinfo Frédérick Douzet, professor at the French Institute of Geopolitics at the University of Paris 8 and director of the Geode center. She was questioned after the announcement of the creation by France of a National Agency to fight against the manipulation of information from abroad aimed at “Destabilize the state”.

franceinfo: Do ​​these manipulations of information represent a crucial issue?

Frederick Douzet : This is an important issue that took on particular importance after the 2016 (American) presidential election, in which Russia was accused of interference, and which has since taken on greater proportions. We have seen influence operations that have been denounced against various states.

Are we in a recent phenomenon of manipulation of information towards the citizens of another country?

The manipulation of information has existed for a very long time by a very wide variety of actors. What is new is the way it is spread, the means available, the virality that can be organized, the industrial dimension. But it is also the ease of access to its means. This means that we can seize it as an individual, as a State. There is a wide variety of actors who use social networks and the internet to spread messages for malicious purposes.

Is it more difficult to fight?

It is extremely difficult to fight when you want to respect the law and democratic values. It’s difficult because it’s a challenge, technically and intellectually, to figure out how to stop this spread of information. But we are also dealing with phenomena which are sometimes difficult to characterize. We have the full spectrum of operations, some of which are relatively transparent and even legitimate. Others are opaque, hidden, clandestine and illicit. It is sometimes difficult to characterize them.

Is France running after time in the face of the reality of these threats?

We began to realize the importance of this field with the rise of the terrorist threat and in particular the use of social networks by Daesh, in the years 2010. We have a development that makes things much more complicated. An adversary like Daesh, everyone almost agrees on the fact that we can legitimately fight him and prevent him from communicating. But when you are in an area where you have to distinguish whether it is legitimate information, information that is objectively false, or just biased, or that comes from a hostile or hidden actor, and that you try to combine that with respect democratic values, it became much more complicated.


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