Paris prosecutors open probe into whether false news is being used to influence voting in the presidential election.
The Paris prosecutor’s office says it has opened a preliminary investigation into whether false news is being used to influence voting in Sunday’s French presidential election run-off.
Prosecutors started the probe after centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron filed a lawsuit on Thursday, making a legal complaint over rumours circulating on social media that he had hidden wealth in offshore accounts.
Macron’s camp said the former investment banker was victim of a “cyber misinformation campaign”.
Macron sued after far-right rival Marine Le Pen suggested in a televised debate on Wednesday that he could be holding an offshore account in the Bahamas. Le Pen backed away from the suggestion on Thursday.
A spokesman for Macron’s En Marche! (Forward) party said the complaint to Paris prosecutors was not against Le Pen, even though “it happens that she mentioned it”, but against persons unknown, according to the DPA news agency.
Le Pen has repeatedly sought to portray Macron as the candidate of high finance and “the system”, pointing to his four years working at the Rothschild investment bank.
Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Albi, in southern France, said that Macron had vehemently denied the allegations of having an offshore account.
“He says it’s not true and has filed this legal claim in order to say that it’s not correct in this presidential campaign to fling these sorts of [false] allegations around because they can be so damaging,” said Butler.
“Because, of course, if he was to have such a bank account, that would be something that most voters would be quite annoyed about – it’s a time in France where unemployment is high, where so many people do struggle to make ends meet.”