A new social media report from Eric Zemmour ahead of the French election shows how Britain’s Leave campaigns in the EU referendum created a controversial pattern
French far-right candidate Eric Zemmour’s social media strategy echoed elements of Britain’s Vote Leave campaign to attract new voters, a new report from HOPE not hate has revealed.
The controversial pundit, who has repeated the far-right Great Replacement conspiracy theory and faced multiple hate speech allegations, will run for the presidency against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and President Emmanuel Macron, among others.
The report reveals how Zemmour successfully used YouTube and Telegram to create a new voting base, with particular emphasis on attracting younger voters and voters drawn to culture war issues.
But it also suggests that Zemmour used social media techniques familiar to British voters during the Brexit referendum, including creating websites for specific demographics in favor of Zemmour; asking people to sign petitions on unrelated issues; and volunteers copying and pasting pro-Zemmour content into a series of apolitical Facebook groups.
Safya Khan-Ruf, researcher at HOPE not hate, said: “Zemmour’s team has worked hard to present him as someone who has organic and popular support from the French by focusing their campaign more strongly on social media than its main rivals, having identified it as a way to reach a wider, younger audience and circumvent the voting restrictions you would find on TV channels”.
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Social media has played a vital role on both sides of the Brexit campaign, with the official Vote Leave campaign spending £2.7million on Facebook ads alone.
Many of the ads deployed by the Leave campaign – both its official Vote Leave arm and the Farage/Banks Leave.EU vehicle – have used a range of tactics now seen in Zemmour’s own social media strategy.
These included the running of adverts on Facebook asking users to share their opinion on an issue which may or may not seem obviously related to EU membership – for example, asking whether the UK needs better defences. against floods or animal welfare advertisements. More announcements were explicit about the survey being related to EU membership, asking users if they thought it was good or bad that countries like Turkey and Albania may one day join the union.
The adverts also posed as petitions – with social media users being asked to ‘click if you agree’ on a statement such as ‘whaling must be stopped’. Other petition-type ads urged users to ‘click if you agree’ that EU officials are overpaid or that it was unfair for UK taxpayers to help pay debts. Greece.
Finally, the Brexit campaign implemented weapons targeting specific categories of voters, such as Be.Leave which focused on a younger demographic.
Similarly, the HOPE Not Hate report revealed that Zemmour created a website asking his followers to sign a censorship petition. Her campaign created a series of websites focused on specific groups of voters, including women and members of the Gilets Jaunes movement. The objective is the same as during Brexit: to collect data and disseminate targeted campaign messages.
How the great replacement has become widespread
Zemmour’s hate strategy
Although Zemmour has fewer Facebook likes than Le Pen and Macron, his Reconquête party spent more than twice as much on Facebook ads as the Rassemblement National. Moreover, despite his small audience, Zemmour is much more active on Facebook than his fellow candidates and has a higher interaction rate with his followers.
Where things get more interesting on Facebook is the creation of the affiliate groups mentioned above which, as early as 2020, were advocating for a Zemmour candidacy in that year’s elections. These groups amplified Zemmour’s hateful messages and raised his profile outside of the usual election cycle, meaning that when he officially launched his campaign, he already had a large and committed base of support.
Additionally, HOPE not hate found Zemmour used Facebook to play around with France’s election rules, which prohibit ads for political candidates within six months of an election. Zemmour, however, has circumvented the code by posting ads on social media that refer to the party, not the candidate. Inside the rules, but anyone who sees Reclaim’s ads knows that the party is equal to the man.
Unlike his political rivals, Zemmour saw most of his social media success on YouTube – not surprising given that the video-sharing platform has become a key channel for far-right content.
His 448,000 subscribers mean his YouTube audience is twice Macron’s and he has eight times as many subscribers as Le Pen.
Zemmour is pushing its YouTube content on Telegram – a social media platform popular with far-right actors who have been banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Its content has been amplified by figures from the French far right such as Damien Rieu of Generation Identity and influencers Baptiste Marchais and Le Raptor.
Through these connections, Zemmour was able to reach a younger demographic, closer to America’s “alternative right” than Le Pen’s traditional far-right voters, who tend to be older, rural, white, and male.
The first round of the election begins on April 10. Zemmour is not expected to advance to the second round, which again will likely be a choice between LePen and Macron.
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