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Eric Zemmour and his Rise on Social Media Platforms

- 04 04 22

When French pundit Eric Zemmour announced his candidacy in the French elections on 30 November 2021, he did it on YouTube instead of holding a press conference. Eric Zemmour has often been likened to former US President Donald Trump, both for his rise in popularity as a Presidential candidate and his casual racism on social media. Zemmour has stated he wishes to ban “non-French” names such as Muhammad, has argued that employers should be able to turn down Arab or black people as applicants, and that men should hold political power. Like Trump and other populists, Zemmour has also framed himself as an outsider speaking the truth, unlike the “political and media elite”.

Despite being in the mediatic sphere for decades, Zemmour’s social media presence has exploded over the last year, generating more engagement online at one point than any other candidate, including the French President Emmanuel Macron. Part of this popularity has been his ability to stir controversy and produce polarising content, which social media algorithms then amplify. Zemmour has explained the rise of his social media presence as an organic growth in supporters and the popularity of his messages, but he has used several techniques to expand his reach and importance online.

This report examines his presence on four platforms: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Telegram, and outlines the tactics used by Zemmour to expand his reach and amplify his message more successfully than certain established rival candidates, such as Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron.

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Key Findings

  • On Telegram, an analysis of 100 far-right French channels shows that Zemmour was much more successful in getting his Twitter and YouTube content shared on the platform than Le Pen. Le Pen, however, had more success in getting her Facebook links shared.
  • On Facebook, Zemmour has kept his campaign ads vague enough to avoid breaking the French electoral code, which limits political advertising in the six months before election.
  • Out of the three candidates, Zemmour does not have the highest number of followers on Facebook but his interaction rate with followers is significantly higher than his opponents, and he has the highest number of posts within the period examined.
  • Reconquête, Zemmour’s political party, has also spent more than double the amount on Facebook ads (€36,957) than its far- right competitor, Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (€15,203) within the examined period.
  • On YouTube, Zemmour exceeds Le Pen and Macron in views and subscribers despite having fewer videos. He and his affiliates have also received speaking time on other influential French YouTube channels, such as Papacito’s.
  • Zemmour’s controversial statements on mainstream media platforms easily translate to trending on social media and this has contributed to the excessive attention from news organisations, even before he officially announced he was running.
  • Overall, it is clear that Zemmour has focused more heavily on social media than his main rivals, having identified it as away to reach large, younger audiences and bypass electoral restrictions for TV channels. In this regard, he has been successful.
  • Through this Presidential election, Zemmour has become a rallying point for the far right.

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