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France is the latest place where platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but also messaging software like Whatsapp and Telegram, are being used by protesters to organise and coordinate

Bloomberg  |  Paris 

protest in france, France protesters, pfly riders, yellow vests, paris riots
Codename ‘Fly Rider’: Yellow vests are plotting stir online. (Photo: Reuters)

Sporting a baseball cap turned backward, he’s blowing cigarette smoke into the camera and eating potato chips as 13,000 people watch on: the protesters know him as “

The day after a wave of violence last weekend left cleaning up burnt cars and broken glass in posh districts, protesters from the grassroots movement quickly convened to debrief and define future tactics. Their venue: a group run by 31-year-old Maxime Nicolle. Posting with the alias “Fly Rider,” he’s become an Internet star in just a couple of weeks and risen as a prominent face of the French strikes.

Nicolle is one of several online activists giving Emmanuel cold sweats: with more than 120,000 members, his group aims to help coordinate and organise actions, as well as canalise what protesters want. It’s home to posts about everything from injured protesters to what to wear to avoid tear gas.

Rise to fame

France is the latest place where platforms like and Twitter, but also messaging software like Whatsapp and Telegram, are being used by protesters to organise and coordinate. It’s raised questions about the nobodies who become leaders online practically overnight, in a quick rise to fame and influence.

“There’s a handful of people who have managed to monopolise the floor online —unknowns who have become top influencers,” said Benedicte Martan, head of studies at social media analysis firm Visibrain. “Social media has given rise to poster boys for rebellion, and they’ve beat politicians to the top of the influencer ranking.”

First Published: Sat, December 08 2018. 00:11 IST
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