In long-feared twist, online leak rattles French campaign

PARIS (AP) — Many feared this was coming.

For months pundits and journalists worried over the possibility that a strategically timed leak could destabilize France’s election, a replay of the obsessively covered disclosures that some Americans blame for scuppering Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and many others fear are sapping popular faith in Western democracy.

Late Friday, with only minutes left before France’s presidential campaign duel was due to cease fire for the weekend, it came.

Well, maybe it did. Or not.

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It’s hard to tell with so little time to evaluate the mass of material suddenly leaked online. And that might be the point.

All that can be said with much certainty is that shortly before midnight French time, someone on 4chan — a message board known for, among other things, elaborate hoaxes and political extremism — posted links to a large set of data purportedly taken from the campaign of Emmanuel Macron, the youthful centrist politician who is tipped to beat far-right politician Marine Le Pen in the second round of the French presidential election Sunday. Macron’s campaign swiftly confirmed that several officials had had their email inboxes pillaged and that at least some of the messages, financial data, and book keeping published to the internet was genuine.

The timing of the leak could be seen either as idiotic or inspired.

The documents’ release just before France enters a roughly two-daylong media blackout — during which politicians, journalists and even ordinary citizens are legally required to pull back from any public election talk — means that the leak may have very little impact beyond the overheated world of Twitter and Reddit. On the other hand, the publication just before France’s media-political machinery shuts down for the weekend might mean that talk of the leak — regardless of its…

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