French report flags Azeri-linked disinformation campaign targeting 2024 Olympics

PARIS (Reuters) -France’s cyber defence unit has unveiled a disinformation campaign emanating from Azerbaijan that aimed to undermine Paris’ capacity to hold next year's Olympic Games, a report showed on Monday.

According to the report seen by Reuters and other media, the campaign ran from July 26-27 on an account of an Azerbaijani individual on social media X, formerly Twitter, with links to the Azeri presidential party.

"The investigations showed that at least one foreign actor close to Azerbaijan had acted, via the use of unauthentic processes, with the objective of harming at France's reputation in its capacity to host the 2024 Olympic and paralympic Games," France's state service for Vigilance and Protection against Foreign Digital Interference (Viginum) said in its report on the campaign.

The campaign, which included pictures and a video showing clashes between French police and protesters that were seen by millions of people, ran with the slogan #boycottparis2024 following riots in Paris at the end of June.

However, Viginum said it had not been able to link the campaign directly to the Azerbaijani authorities.

Neither the Azeri government nor the presidential party were immediately available for comment. The Azeri embassy in Paris did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ties between Paris and Baku have been strained in recent months and have worsened since Baku took control of the Nagorno-Karabah region.

At the time of the campaign, France had repeatedly criticized Azeri authorities over the blocking of the Lachin corridor, the key road that linked Armenia to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

A French diplomatic source said Paris had asked Baku for clarifications on the disinformation campaign. It would also be discussing the matter with X, formerly Twitter, in the coming days, the source said.

(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Tassilo Hummel and Jonathan Oatis)