Paris on Monday accused actors linked to Azerbaijan of having carried out a campaign of information manipulation aimed at damaging France's reputation in its ability to host the 2024 Olympic Games. According to a report by Viginum, the The organization fighting against foreign digital interference, which AFP and other media were able to consult, the investigations began on July 26 when “several visuals calling for a boycott of the 24 Olympic Games” were massively shared on X (formerly Twitter) , were detected.
The investigation was carried out in a context of diplomatic tensions between Paris and Baku. In recent months, France has been involved in mediation between Azerbaijan and Armenia, two former Soviet republics in conflict for thirty years. France has also shown its support for Armenia which fears a violation of its territorial integrity by Azerbaijan, a position which has earned it harsh criticism from Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev.
“Featuring images of riots or the city of Paris, these publications also included the Olympic logo, three official JOP-24 X accounts and two hashtags on each content
In addition, the investigation revealed that of these 91 accounts, "a significant portion presents at least one link with Azerbaijan": a photo including the flag of Azerbaijan or Azerbaijani places, a location declared in Azerbaijan, the presence of Azeri characters, or the promotion of videos or extracts from statements by the Azerbaijani president. Another “marker of inauthenticity”, when an account was declared in France, spelling errors in the location suggesting that it is a literal translation from Azerbaijani into French, like Bordo for Bordeaux or Monpelye for Montpellier.
Additional investigations also made it possible to identify an account at the origin of the publication of content targeting the holding of the Olympics on inauthentic and instantly taken up by X accounts linked to Azerbaijan, “reinforces the hypothesis of a coordinated maneuver”. Created in June 2023, the @MuxtarYevse account claims to be located in Azerbaijan. “The displayed name Muxtar Nagiyev as well as the photo in the account profile coincide with the identity of the chairman of the Sabail district organization of the New Azerbaijan party”, the party of President Aliyev.
In addition, a video hostile to the holding of the Olympic Games drawing a parallel between scenes of riots and sports competitions was published on July 27 by the X account @NewYorkInsider, a fake news media. This 39-second video has been viewed millions of times, said Viginum, who clearly sees in it a desire to damage the image of France. On August 8, 2023, the @NewYorkInsider account had more than 11,000 followers and 48 subscriptions. Of the 11,000, more than 7,000 were created after July 1 and “the majority present inauthentic characteristics”, namely absence of subscribers, no publications, common characteristics in their usernames.
Viginum investigators also determined that other domain names appear for newyorkinsider, hosted on the same server including the site orkhanrza.com which promotes Orkhan Rzayev, an Azerbaijani national at the head of two companies: Eleven Kings and MediamarkDigital. The first company specializes in video games and the second in digital marketing. Viginum concluded that the Olimpiya campaign, Olympic Games in Azeri, “is likely to harm the fundamental interests of the Nation”. And he expects other potential campaigns targeting the Olympics.