In France, strict election laws mean there's near silence on massive campaign hack

Key Points
  • A French law prohibits campaigning or any kind of influencing speech ahead of an election.
  • As a result, there is little discussion in the media of a 9 gigabyte dump of documents from the campaign of presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.
  • However, supporters of Macron's rival, Marine Le Pen, are circulating some documents on Twitter.
A voter ID displayed on top of campaign flyers of French presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in Nantes on May 4, 2017 ahead of the second round of the presidential election on May 7.
Loic Venance | AFP | Getty Images

In France Saturday, there is near silence about 9 gigabytes of leaked documents from the campaign of presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.

The collection of emails, spending spreadsheets, and more, appeared on the internet Friday night. Yet Saturday morning, there is absolutely nothing on French TV or radio, and very little on the websites of major newspapers.

This is due to a French law that says the day before an election should be a day of reflection. Starting at midnight Saturday and continuing until the polls close Sunday, campaigning is prohibited along with any kind of speech meant to influence the race. Hence the silence.

(If you can read French, American journalist Christopher Dickey, has posted a link to the key law on his Twitter page.)


And while there are articles about the leaks on the home pages of the national newspapers, they contain very little about what is in the leaks.

French media coverage of the 2nd round of the country's presidential vote.
Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, CNBC

The French electoral commission has warned the media they can be prosecuted for publishing false information. Without the ability to verify the documents, they may be in violation of the law. And Macron's team put out a statement Friday night, just minutes before midnight, stating some of the documents were false and that journalists should not cover them.

And then there's Twitter.

No surprise, you can find many of the documents there, retweeted most actively by supporters of the other candidate, Marine Le Pen.

Having spent hours getting some of the most distributed emails translated (thanks to our colleagues here with NBC News), thus far there is nothing that falls into the category of a bombshell. (Take that with a caveat: 9 GB of docs is a lot of documents.)

One email in heavy circulation on social media is from a Macron fundraiser. He explains to the recipient of the email that he must reimburse him for a donation that is larger than allowed by France's campaign finance laws.

He then explains the limits (4,000 euros for one type of donation, and 7,500 for another type of pledge) and then goes on to explain how the donor can achieve achieve his maximum amount under the law.

Another is from a lawyer explaining to a campaign worker how the campaign law functions and telling them to instruct a would-be donor not to do something because it would be illegal.

One of the most talked about emails makes reference to binge-watching Dr. Who and masturbating to the sound of running water. It sounds generally incoherent. It could be false, or maybe the person wrote it after a few too many.

Thus far, the chances of this effecting the election appear to be nil.

I've attached a photo from French TV. Instead of talking about the campaign, they are doing stories about the history of the Elysee Palace, the home of the French president. There are some reports about how and when to vote, but you won't see any footage of the candidates or even their campaign posters.