Pokémon Go Used by Russia to Create Racial Tensions in 2016 President Polls

A recent investigation concluded by CNN has revealed that Russia’s role in fueling racial tensions during the 2016 presidential elections wasn’t limited to Facebook and Twitter only. CNN investigated few accounts that revealed their involvement extended to Tumblr, YouTube and Pokémon Go. A specific Russia-linked account on Tumblr showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement and used the Pokémon Go game to instigate racial tensions among Americans. The Tumblr page was connected to the notorious Internet Research Agency of Russia.

During the July 2016 presidential campaigns, the Tumblr page promoted a contest where the Pokémon Go players sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement were asked to lay the Pokémon Go game near the areas where black people faced police brutality. The contest asked the interested players to change their player name to the victims of the police brutality.

The Tumblr page was further connected to the Do No Shoot Us campaign that was designed on the facets of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Do Not Shoot Us campaign had a dedicated website (donotshoot.us) and all the social media accounts. The contest winners were promised Amazon gift cards; however, the CNN investigation didn’t find any evidence of the gift cards being distributed. Post the investigation, the Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook were suspended, and the Tumblr and YouTube pages remained active.

The investigation shows how the Russian agents developed the politically divisive ecosystem and distributed bias messages racially across multiple social media platforms. Around 470 accounts dedicated to the Don’t Shoot Us campaign exists and Facebook has taken down one of the accounts after its relationship with the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency. The campaigns highlighted police brutality with the intention to provoke the African Americans and create an image in the minds of other Americans that black activism is a reality simultaneously.