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Fake news batters UK and France ahead of elections

French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer have been the targets of disinformation online.
French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer have been the targets of disinformation online. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By James Thomas
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Both sets of votes are expected to shake up each country's political direction, but as usual, there’s plenty of disinformation making the rounds, particularly targeting individual politicians.

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As the UK readies itself for the general election on Thursday and France gears up for the second round of its snap legislative elections three days later, social media is awash with false claims trying to discredit figures from across the political spectrum.

This post on X says that the UK’s former home secretary, Suella Braverman, used £25,000 (around €29,500) in expenses to pay for her parents’ electricity bills rather than her own.

This post twists what the Mirror found in its investigation
This post twists what the Mirror found in its investigationEuronews

It’s based on an investigation by British newspaper The Daily Mirror last year.

It found that the Conservative politician claimed nearly £25,000 in household bills for her London house in five years despite staying rent-free in her parents’ home.

This is within MP expenses rules, but Braverman was accused of exploiting the system at the time.

Either way, the Mirror report makes no mention of Braverman using her MP expenses to pay her parents’ bills.

Elsewhere, an edited image shows Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, sitting beside predatory sex offender Jimmy Savile.

This photo of Keir Starmer with Jimmy Savile is fake
This photo of Keir Starmer with Jimmy Savile is fakeEuronews

The image isn’t a new one but is doing the rounds again in the run-up to the election.

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves published the original, unaltered photo on X in December 2022.

It shows Starmer sitting next to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, not Savile, whose face has been edited onto Brown’s body.

Across the Channel, posts such as this one suggest that French President Emmanuel Macron called the legislative elections so he can run for office a third time.

France's consitution debunks the claim in this post
France's consitution debunks the claim in this postEuronews

It claims that he’ll be able to resign and run again if the vote doesn’t go his way because his second mandate would be incomplete.

This is wrong: France’s constitution clearly states that the president is elected for five years and can hold no more than two consecutive mandates.

Then there’s this post that says that Manuel Bompard, MP for the left-wing La France Insoumise party, is wearing a red triangle pin in support of Hamas.

The red triangle is an anti-fascist symbol
The red triangle is an anti-fascist symbolEuronews

But this isn’t right either — La France Insoumise says on its news platform that the badge is an anti-fascist symbol.

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It hearkens back to the red triangles that political prisoners were forced to wear by the Nazis when they were detained in concentration camps.

Reshaping the European political landscape

As two of the continent’s heavyweights, the results of both the French and British votes are likely to have huge ramifications on European politics as a whole.

The far-right triumphed in the first round of the French elections last Sunday and appears poised to make further gains in the second round.

The left-wing alliance also performed strongly and is expected to continue, while support for Macron’s coalition crumbled.

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Whatever happens, a divided or minority government could pose a serious risk to the stability of the EU.

The UK meanwhile is set to swing left following 14 years of Conservative governments, with polls putting Labour as many as 20 points ahead of their rivals.

Such a result would lead to a significant majority of seats for Starmer — even more than the 80-seat majority former Prime Minister Boris Johnson won at the last general election in 2019.

If he becomes prime minister, Starmer has promised to seek a new UK-EU security pact and improve the Brexit deal, yet has repeatedly stated there will be no return to the customs union or single market.

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Whichever way you vote, make sure you’re not being caught out by dubious claims online.

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