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Monday December 18th, 2017 11:17AM

The Latest: French watchdog: Some hacked Macron data is fake

By The Associated Press
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PARIS (AP) — The Latest on France's presidential runoff on Sunday between centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen (all times local):

3:50 p.m.

France's election campaign commission says "a significant amount of data" has been leaked on social networks following a hacking attack on centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron's campaign some 36 hours before voting starts in Sunday's runoff.

The commission says Saturday the data leaked apparently came from Macron's "information systems and mail accounts from some of his campaign managers." The watchdog says the leaked data has been "fraudulently" obtained and that fake news has probably been mingled in with it.

It urged French media and citizens "not to relay" the contents of the leaked documents "in order not to alter the sincerity of the vote."

French electoral laws impose a blackout Saturday and most of Sunday on any campaigning and media coverage seen as swaying the election.

Macron is seen as the favorite going into Sunday's runoff against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

___

11 a.m.

Voting in the French presidential runoff has begun in France's overseas territories amid a nationwide blackout on campaigning and media coverage that could sway voters' views. It moves to the mainland on Sunday.

The first French territory involved in the early voting was Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, an archipelago located near the Canadian island of Newfoundland, where polling stations opened Saturday morning.

Early voting in other far-flung French overseas territories and French embassies abroad was expected later in the day.

In the presidential runoff, voters are choosing between centrist Emmanuel Macron's business-friendly, pro-European vision and far-right Marine Le Pen's protectionist, closed-borders view that resonates with workers left behind by globalization.

___

10 a.m.

France's election campaign watchdog is investigating a hacking attack and document leak targeting presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron that his political movement calls a last-ditch bid to disrupt Sunday's tense runoff vote.

Fears of hacking and campaign interference have simmered throughout France's high-stakes, closely watched campaign — and boiled over Friday night as Macron's team said it had been the victim of a "massive and coordinated" hack.

His political movement said the unidentified hackers accessed staffers' personal and professional emails and leaked campaign finance material and contracts — as well as fake decoy documents — online.

The perpetrators remain unknown. It's unclear whether the document dump would dent Macron's large poll lead over far-right rival Marine Le Pen going into the vote.

___

6 a.m.

The French presidential campaign has been unusually bitter, with voters hurling eggs and flour, protesters clashing with police and candidates insulting each other on national television — a reflection of the widespread public disaffection with politics.

Marine Le Pen, 48, has brought her far-right National Front party, once a pariah for its racism and anti-Semitism, closer than ever to the French presidency, seizing on working-class voters' growing frustration with globalization and immigration. Even if she loses in Sunday's runoff, she is likely to be a powerful opposition figure in France's parliamentary election in June.

On Sunday she faces 39-year-old centrist Emmanuel Macron, who also helped upend France's traditional political structure with his wild-card campaign.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Le Pen said, win or lose, "we changed everything."

Many voters, however, don't like either Le Pen or Macron. They fear her party's racist past while worrying that his platform would demolish worker job protections.

___

6 a.m.

The hacking attack and leak of both fake and real documents from Emmanuel Macron's campaign began late Friday, just before France's required campaign news blackout descended at midnight.

Someone on 4chan — a site known for, among other things, cruel hoaxes and political extremism — posted links to a large set of data which the poster claimed had come from Macron's campaign. Macron's campaign swiftly confirmed it had been hacked some weeks ago, and that at least some of the documents were genuine.

Macron's team is slamming the hack as an effort to "seed doubt and disinformation" and destabilize the French presidential vote on Sunday where he faces Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party.

A top National Front official, Florian Philippot, asked in a tweet, "will the #Macronleaks teach us something that investigative journalism deliberately buried?"

The French election commission is meeting Saturday on the hack and the leak.

A voting watchdog urged the French Interior Ministry late Friday to look into claims by the Le Pen campaign that some of her ballot papers were being tampered with to benefit Macron.

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