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Who is behind the viral video calling for the boycott of the Paris 2024 Olympics?

The video was largely shared in Azerbaijan first
The video was largely shared in Azerbaijan first Copyright Wikimedia
Copyright Wikimedia
By Sophia Khatsenkova
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Was a viral video calling for the boycott of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games really published by a major American news outlet? That’s what a certain Twitter account is trying to portray.

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A video juxtaposing promotional clips from the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics with jarring images of police violence in France has gone viral on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. 

The clip ends with a call to boycott the event, accusing France of human rights abuses. 

As of the beginning of August, the video has gained more than 5 million views on the platform.

It was shared by a number of journalists and politicians including Gilbert Collard, a French far-right MEP who accused the country’s President Emmanuel Macron of ‘destroying France’s reputation' abroad.

The video was shared by what appears to be a news organisation called New York Insider. 

It has the Twitter blue verified checkmark, which can now be bought by anyone as long as they pay a subscription fee. 

The profile links to a website: newyorkinsider.net. At first glance, it seems to be a classic news site with many articles covering sports, politics, and business.

But the first red flag Euronews found is that all of the articles are signed by a certain ‘Michael.’

Most of the content seems to have been copied and pasted from other legitimate news organisations such as the New York Times and Huffington Post. 

Moreover, unlike most reputable news outlets, there is no ‘about page’ that details who is behind the publication. 

When checking who is behind the domain, The Cube found an anonymous website registered in the US but created only one month before the viral boycott video was posted - so quite recent.

When running the domain name through a website that can show which other domain names are associated with it, it led us to the blog of an Azerbaijani entrepreneur, and owner of a communication agency that creates digital content for brands. 

In particular, his business can write press releases in multiple languages directly published on various websites... including the New York Insider.

We reached out to the owner of the blog and business and he insisted: "We are not associated with any PR campaign related to the viral video. Neither I nor my team have any involvement in its creation."

"The New York Insider website's domain association with our company's name is solely a result of the website development work we carried out for them."

He did not respond to our questions about why the New York Insider website attempts to pass off as a legitimate news outlet while apparently using content from other media. 

However, the influence campaign worked. The website New York Insider even bragged about it in an article claiming the clip "took the Internet by storm", catching the attention "of famous journalists and government officials."

"The frustration and anger of the French people are directed towards President Emmanuel Macron’s alleged wrong political strategy, leading to growing concerns about France’s tarnished global image," writes the anonymous 'Michael.'

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It appears there have been earlier instances of this video being posted on X. A couple of hours before New York Insider posted the clip, it was starting to gain traction already in Azerbaijan.

Even government officials shared it earlier such as the Head of Press of the Council on State Support to NGOs under the Presidency of Azerbaijan. 

According to the website of the entity, "The Council of State Support to NGOs implements the propaganda of Azerbaijan's fair stand in the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in foreign countries and international organisations."

We reached out to the Press Office of the Council asking why its staff was sharing this video and by who was it created. 

We have yet to receive an answer but we will update this article if we do. 

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France and Azerbaijan relations have been particularly strained these past few months. In June, Azerbaijan accused Macron of "distorting" peace talks with Armenia after an EU summit.

Baku and Yerevan have been locked in a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh for years. And Macron has been one of Armenia’s closest supporters in the EU, much to the anger of Azerbaijan.

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