The First Amendment was written to protect our most cherish rights: the freedom of speech and the right for the media to express their opinions and hold the rich and powerful to account.
When politicians, the police or our judicial system fail, the media intervene to expose wrongdoings, as The Washington Post brilliantly did with the Watergate scandal.
Yet constantly, the First Amendment comes under attack. Warry of being exposed, malign actors have repeatedly tried to silence the press, preferring complacent media as can be found in dictatorships.
The age of Internet does not escape this.
More and more, we see rich and powerful individuals paying so-called “consultants” to launder their online reputation by removing “negative” content, regardless of how correct these may be.
Our case study will be the French real estate entrepreneur: Eric Arnoux
Publicly, Eric Arnoux likes to present himself as a wealthy, successful and trustworthy businessman. Nonetheless, by checking his name in Swiss, French, or Luxembourg corporate registries, we find his constellation of companies, many of which in bankruptcy: Planet SA, Euromaitrise SA, Fonciere ENA, Savana Investment SA to name a few.
Worse, Swiss fiscal authorities have Eric Arnoux registered as owing more than 30 million of Swiss francs to international banks, small companies, private investors or even the Swiss Federal State, the Canton of Geneva or the Commune of Porrentruy, all of whom can confirm such surreal numbers.
Eric Arnoux also has ties to dodgy entrepreneurs such as Belgium Thierry Dubuisson, who was his partner in the bankrupt company Le Hameau des Bains SA. The renowned Swiss newspaper Le Temps already covered this scandal.
But in the world of Eric Arnoux, who is often seen driving a Ferrari and living in a splendid villa in Cologny - Geneva’s Beverly Hills - these inconvenient facts must disappear. To attract new credulous investors, he needs a virgin, spotless reputation.
Instead of paying back his victims and apologizing, Eric Arnoux paid an “e-reputation” company to launder his online reputation.
Didier Frochot, Fabrice Robert Molinaro and Les Infostrateges SARL
Enters the company Les Infostrateges SARL, which was founded on 9 November 2015 in Melun by Didier Frochot and his younger associate Fabrice Robert Molinaro, both originating from the French city of Orleans. To attract people like Eric Arnoux, les Infostrateges uses a webpage named “votre-reputation.com”, or “your-reputation.com”, a highly original choice.
In 2016, Eric Arnoux, who had by then moved to London, paid Les Infostrateges to “wash” his online reputation, even if this meant covering inconvenient truths about his past activities and current level of debt.
Working as modern-day mercenaries, Frochot and Molinaro sent threatening emails to every media who had written an article about Eric Arnoux, while creating dozens of fake Eric Arnoux social media profiles, Youtube videos, blogs, and other forums messages in a vain attempt to flood the net and bury the hard truths.
In their messages, Frochot and Molinaro falsely claimed that Eric Arnoux was an honest real estate promoter, while ignoring the more than 30 million Swiss francs he still owes to his victims.
Since the media are facing acute money shortages, a threatening message will most likely result in the automatic withdrawal of an article. Regrettably, editors can no longer afford legal fees, even if they end up winning a lengthy court battle.
Eric Arnoux and les Infostrateges know that
While not being registered as lawyers themselves, Frochot and Molinaro sent these threatening messages from an email address with the word “judicial” in it, “juridique pN2 les-infostrateges.com”, trying to impress their victims.
No matter what Frochot, Molinaro or les Infostrateges say, the rich, powerful and dishonest need to be held accountable.