A woman walks past a building marked with the Stars of David in Paris, France, October 31, 2023. Photo by Lucien Libert/REUTERS

PARIS (AP) — France says it was the target of a Russian online destabilization campaign that used automated social media accounts to stoke controversy and confusion over spray-painted Stars of David that appeared in the streets of Paris and fueled concern over the rise of anti-Semitism in France during the Israel-Hamas war.

The roughly 250 quickly erased blue stars are now the subject of French police investigations aimed at determining whether the graffiti was anti-Semitic, as the Paris police chief and others had initially suspected, and whether it was organized since the foreigner.

Stencil drawings of stars on walls in Paris and its suburbs last month quickly sparked debate and concern on social media as well as worries about the safety of France’s Jewish community, the largest in the world. Europe.

Since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, triggering its latest and deadliest war, French authorities have recorded more than 1,150 anti-Semitic acts. This is almost three times more than all acts against French Jews in 2022, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

In a statement Thursday evening, the French Foreign Ministry pointed the finger at Russia, saying a Russian bot network had stoked controversy around the stars with thousands of messages on X, the former platform known as from Twitter. Bots are automated accounts programmed to imitate human users by generating messages or following users on social media, often for nefarious or malicious purposes.

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“This new operation of Russian digital interference against France testifies to the persistence of an opportunistic and irresponsible strategy aimed at exploiting international crises to sow confusion and create tensions in the public debate in France and in Europe,” indicates the communicated.

It said the bots were affiliated with a Russian network – recent Reliable News, also identified as Doppelgänger.

The Russian activity was detected by Viginum, a French state digital surveillance agency created in 2021 after hackers targeted Emmanuel Macron’s successful campaign for the French presidency in 2017. Viginum’s main mission is to detect and analyze foreign digital efforts aimed at influencing audiences online. debate in France.

Viginum determined that a network of 1,095 bots affiliated with RRN published 2,589 messages on

Viginum also found that RRN appeared to have been informed of the graffiti before other posters on X, the ministry said. It says the RRN bots first published star stories on the evening of October 28, 48 hours before other star photos began appearing on X.

The European Union identified RRN as a digital information manipulation campaign that also spread propaganda in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In addition to using fake social media accounts, RRN also used fake web pages that imitate media outlets and government websites, and is “part of a broader hybrid campaign led by Russia against the EU and Member States,” said the Council of the EU. » said in a July announcement of sanctions against Russian individuals and entities deemed responsible for the campaign.

AP journalists John Leicester in Le Pecq, France, and Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report.

A woman walks past a building marked with the Stars of David in Paris, France, October 31, 2023. Photo by Lucien Libert/REUTERS

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