It sounds like Russian meddling has stretched far beyond ads on Facebook and Twitter and is still continuing, almost a year after the elections Moscow is accused of trying to influence. A new investigation suggests that the Russians may have even used the augmented reality game Pokemon Go, YouTube and other outlets to meddle in the 2016 elections. The news just broke a short time ago, but it probably won’t take long for President Trump to tweet his disdain for it, considering the source.
CNN reports that it investigated a Russia-linked account which shows that Moscow’s election meddling stretched beyond social media. The media outlet reports that a Russia-linked campaign posed as part of the Black Lives Matter movement and used Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pokemon Go and Tumblr. CNN claims that the campaign even contacted some individual reporters “in an effort to exploit racial tensions and sow discord among Americans.”
The campaign in question is reportedly titled “Don’t Shoot Us,” and CNN reports that Russian agents spread divisive political messages across the listed platforms. According to CNN, the source of the campaign was the Internet Research Agency, a mysterious “troll farm” that’s linked to the Kremlin.
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CNN said that “a source familiar with the matter” confirmed that the “Don’t Shoot Us” Facebook page was one of the 470 accounts the social network removed after determining that they were linked to the IRA. The media outlet also said it has independently verified links between that Facebook page and the other “Don’t Shoot Us” accounts on the other platforms.
The campaign also reportedly referenced the slogan “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” which was popularized after the shooting of Michael Brown. It repeatedly highlighted cases of alleged police brutality. CNN added that it used various platforms to compel African Americans to protest while also causing other Americans to feel threatened by black activism.
The “Don’t Shoot Us” accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were suspended, but the media outlet said the YouTube account and website it linked to the campaign was still active as of this morning. Representatives from Facebook, Alphabet and Twitter have reportedly agreed to testify at a hearing of the Senate and House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 1, according to CNN.
While it’s obvious how social media and YouTube can be leveraged to spread divisive messages, it seems like Pokemon Go would be more difficult to use for that purpose. However, the media outlet said that the campaign used its Tumblr account to direct players to catch and train Pokemon in areas close to locations where alleged police brutality took place. Players were also told to name their Pokemon after victims in the crimes.
The fact that CNN is the source of this report makes the plot even thicker. Trump has battled CNN for quite some time, and CNN’s reputation for news reporting has been tarnished since three of its journalists resigned after another Russia-related article was retracted. The executive editor who headed up CNN’s new investigative unit and two other journalists resigned after the media outlet said they did not follow some “standard editorial processes” when publishing the article earlier this year. The article in question claimed that Congress was investigating “a Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials,” CNN said.