Franceinfo listeners, you react and you can ask us your questions. We answer it with the mediator of the Radio France antennas, Emmanuelle Daviet. We are also today with Alexis Morel, education specialist at franceinfo.
Emmanuelle Daviet: We start with this first message from a listener:
“This Tuesday, April 6, the digital tools of National Education have almost all crashed. Jean Michel Blanquer has designated the culprits: OVH (the CEO has also refuted during the day) and hackers for the platform” my class at the house “of the CNED. Now it is obvious, on the one hand that nothing has been prepared, the digital services do not support the load, and on the other hand that the hypothesis of the hackers is obviously far-fetched and allows to kick In touch. Why does your editorial staff relay Jean-Michel Blanquer’s words, without doing journalistic work of checking and seeking credibility in the minister’s words? “
Alexis Morel, what answers can you give to many listeners who have written to us on this subject?
Alexis Morel: So what can be explained is that there are several times in the processing of this information. Very quickly, when we see that the bugs are multiplying, Jean-Michel Blanquer reacts, evokes computer attacks apparently from abroad against the CNED. It also points to the responsibility, in fact, of this host. We broadcast these words of the minister at first, while quoting them, that is to say by taking our precautions, by saying “according to the minister”, “according to Jean-Michel Blanquer”, which means that we don’t take it at face value. But of course, we broadcast them because they are not trivial. They come from the Minister of National Education, so they have an informative interest.
But we didn’t stop there at all. Very quickly, the boss of this server host, OVH, refutes any responsibility, denies these accusations. Well, we talk about it from 2:10 p.m. on franceinfo, we quote it. Then then, in the evening too. And then, we do this verification work, in particular for the next morning with my colleague Boris Loumagne who, Wednesday at 8 a.m., questions and calls into question the statements of the Minister on the hosting, on the servers, on the computer attacks allegedly occurred. from abroad.
Emmanuelle Daviet: We continue with this message:
“Your journalists only relayed Jean-Michel Blanquer’s words. No counterpoint to the latter’s words was offered. It seems unprofessional to me.”
Alexis Morel, to treat such a file with balance, to whom did you choose to give the floor?
I do not believe that the word of the minister was relayed. He was just one interlocutor among many on our antenna during those Tuesday and Wednesday days. Very quickly, we put on the air testimonies of students, teachers, trade unionists who told of the galley facing the platforms in the harbor and above all, who also denounced the lack of preparation and the lack of anticipation of the ministry. That was the SNES saying in an on-air report.
I also think back, to be very concrete, to this college principal who told us on Tuesday evening on the air her annoyance, her anger at having prepared everything and that all that was stranded. She said in her testimony: “We asked if the servers were going to hold up, we were assured they would hold up.” So there you have it, this is a testimony we heard on Tuesday evening. I don’t believe it was ever claimed on the air that this whole fiasco was primarily or solely related to computer attacks. We also quickly heard of the overload of the servers.
Emmanuelle Daviet: Beyond the testimonies of parents or National Education staff, were there other experts or specialists to decipher this issue on the air?
Alexis Morel: So we invited the head of one of the main editors of digital educational platforms on Wednesday morning. Many teachers reacted to these remarks because she explained that it was also necessary to review the organization of distance education in schools. It pissed off a lot of teachers.
And then, we also had the precious decryption of our “new technologies” specialist, Jérôme Colombain, who explained what could have happened, why the servers were undoubtedly undersized. That is an expertise that I cannot have as an education specialist. So it was interesting to hear him. How was a cyberattack against the CNED more or less plausible? Etc.
Emmanuelle Daviet: How is relaying the word of the Minister of National Education during this period of pandemic a delicate or difficult exercise?
Alexis Morel: This is a very important question because it is a criticism that is often made to us: “You relay the word of the minister as it is”… This is a criticism that we are often made. So we have to hear it. What is complex for us education journalists is that the minister’s word ultimately has a dual status, especially since the start of this crisis. First, it has a somewhat institutional, even service-like status. That is to say, he is the one who will announce some of the changes in protocols at the school. And that concerns a million staff, 12 million students. So we have to relay the practical announcements, if I may say so.
But this ministerial word is also a political word that has an interest, a political agenda of its own. So we must also, at the same time, obviously take it with a lot of distance, with hindsight, whether there is the Covid or not, by the way. And then, the other difficulty in the end, on which we have to be very careful, is the announcement effect and the often discrepancy between the announcements and the field. We have experienced that on several occasions. An announcement made by the minister, but which takes time to materialize. Typically lately antigen testing, saliva testing.
The ministry announces a launch day to us, but on the day in question, there are only a few schools that are affected and the vast majority of teachers and students do not see it right away, if at all. And that we have to be aware of, of course, and say it on the air. And we try to say that yes, this test campaign, for example, it does exist, but that it does not exist everywhere, and that it is difficult to deploy, etc. that this is not a reality across the country.