This post was originally based on verification work carried out collaboratively by newsrooms in France and the UK through CrossCheck (French | English), a not-for-profit collaboration to combat disinformation online, and is republished as part of a partnership with Global Voices.
“Emmanuel Macron, Saudi Arabia’s preferred candidate in the French presidential election”, exclaimed an article [link in French] that was shared on Twitter on Wednesday March 2 by Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a French parliamentarian and niece of far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. The site on which the story appears, however, is a perfect copy of that of the Belgian newspaper Le Soir — with a different URL.
As the image above shows, the official website of Le Soir [link in French] quickly denied that the story had come from its newsroom.
The news article does not come from Agence France-Presse — as the byline claims — and lesoir.info is not Le Soir’s official website – it is lesoir.be. The clone site uses exactly the same font, design, and page layout as the newspaper’s site. Clicking on any links on lesoir.info redirects the visitor to the pages of lesoir.be.
The domain for the clone site lesoir.info is registered to a Donald Thomas in Delaware in the United States.
Marion Maréchal-Le Pen tweeted: “30% of Macron’s campaign funded by Saudi Arabia? We demand transparency!”
Marion Maréchal-Le Pen deleted her tweet half an hour after it was published. Website Fdesouche also took their article down soon after.
You can read about other fabrications and the French elections here.