False press releases, ultra-realistic websites, mock press conferences ... Activists, environmentalists in particular, are now imitating corporate communications to get their messages across, even if it means misleading the media. infox time.
"Some activists believe that all blows are allowed to defend their causes but I think they are wrong", explains Nicolas Vanderbiest, specialist in e-reputation and author of the site Reputatio Lab.
"They put their relations with the media at stake, the first victims of these hoaxes," he adds.
Fight against "greenwashing"
The example was given Monday in Paris: a false representative of TotalEnergies exposed in front of a few real journalists aware of the hoax a project to relocate wild animals from Africa to France, in order to allow the construction of a pipeline.
RéHabitat is a TotalEnergies program.
This is the very first conservation program based on habitat equivalence.
Thanks to carbon neutral technologies, we will provide a bright future for the neighboring species of the EACOP pipeline.https: //t.co/EWkJz0WAGX
- Not Total (@ReHabitatEU) September 13, 2021
“We use humor, satire and creativity to expose real issues.
When you think about it, we announced the importation of animals from an entire African ecosystem to France ... it's ridiculous, it was obvious that it was a hoax ", defends Natalie Whiteman, member of the American group" The Fixers ”.
For his sidekick Jeff Walburn, “the real 'fake news' is the one that the TotalEnergies group has been spreading through its greenwashing campaigns for years”.
Both are former members of "Yes Men", an American group author of several activist hoaxes like a false press release released in 2010 on behalf of Chevron, American oil giant.
Activists resort to this kind of practice "to talk about their causes"
Alexandre Alaphilippe, director of the NGO "EU disinfolab", puts the danger into perspective: "Some hoaxes are so satirical that there is little risk that they will affect our understanding", according to him.
But some “more ambiguous” actions, such as a false statement from the Extinction Rebellion movement released in the summer of 2020, can be “on the borderline between hoax and disinformation”.
This press release, supported by a very realistic site, announced that a Swedish pension fund was withdrawing its investments in fossil fuels and had managed to fool several media.
“The defense of the environment is struggling to appear in the flow of information, which is why activists resort to this kind of artifice, as a pretext, to talk about their causes,” explains Nicolas Vanderbiest.
According to Raphaël Labbé, director of the company Wiztrust which develops solutions for authenticating press releases, false press releases by environmental activists are part of a long tradition of hoaxes.
But they are more in the spotlight today through the effect of social networks.
And "they use websites complete with striking images", analyzes Raphaël Labbé.
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