Russia’s far-ranging campaign to promote dissension in the United States reportedly included an effort to weaponize Pokémon Go. CNN reported today that in July 2016, a Tumblr page linked to Russia’s now-notorious Internet Research Agency promoted a contest encouraging people sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement to play the game near famous sites of police brutality. Players were told to change their characters’ names to the victims of those incidents — an apparent effort to inflame racial tensions.
The Tumblr page was linked to Do Not Shoot Us, a multi-platform campaign designed to mimic aspects of Black Lives Matter. (As CNN notes, the name plays on “hands up, don’t shoot,” one of the movement’s slogans.) Do Not Shoot Us included a website, donotshoot.us, along with related pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. The Facebook page was one of 470 pages that were removed after the company determined that it was linked to Russian groups attempting to interfere in US politics.
According to CNN, the group’s Tumblr page included a post showing a Pokémon named “Eric Garner,” who died after being put in a chokehold by a officer of the New York Police Department. The post promoted a contest, which promised Amazon gift cards to the winners, according to the report. CNN could not find evidence that anyone actually participated in the contest, it said, or that the page had distributed the gift cards.
The Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts of the group have been suspended, CNN said. Its YouTube and Tumblr pages, though, remain active — though the Tumblr page has shifted to posts about Palestine.