>> French President Emmanuel Macron's campaign the target of Russian spies, using phony Facebook accounts during his election earlier this year. Reuters learning exclusively that roughly two dozen fake Facebook personas were created by Russian intelligence in an attempt to spy on Macron campaign officials as he sought to defeat far right nationalist Marine Le Pen and other opponents.
Reuters correspondent Joseph Menn.>> At least some of them purported to be friends, friends of friends of people in the campaign. They were using these accounts to try and learn as much as they could about the candidate, the candidate's friends, their tastes. And it was probably designed to make a phishing attack more credible so they could send an email that purported to be from one of these people and try to get them to enter credentials into a form or download malware.
>> Facebook detected the phony accounts during the campaign and deactivated them, the company tracing them to tools used in the past by Russia's GRU military intelligence. That same unit was blamed for hacking the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 US presidential election. Facebook said in April it had suspended roughly 30,000 accounts spreading false propaganda about the French election.
That number has since jumped to 70,000. But the effort to infiltrate the social networks of Macron officials is an even more insidious tactic among what Menn calls the online world's new normal.>> It sort of helps inform the overall picture, which is a pretty dark one. Countries have yet to come up with a way to truly deter and punish this sort of activity.
Facebook, I think, is demonstrating a sense of heightened responsibility about its role as a platform for political discourse and education, but also manipulation and spying as well.>> Email accounts of Macron's staffers were also hacked in the final days of the campaign. Russia has repeatedly denied interfering in the French election.