Russian-Linked Accounts Used Pokémon Go in 2016 Election Meddling Effort: Report

| OCT 12, 2017 | 8:31 PM

William Steakin

According to a new report, the Russian-linked effort to meddle in the 2016 presidential election infiltrated not only Facebook and Twitter, but other major social platforms like YouTube, Tumblr, and even Pokémon Go.

CNN reported on Thursday that the Russian actors posed as Black Lives Matter activists through a campaign titled “Don't Shoot Us,” which created accounts on Facebook, YouTube, and Tumblr among others.

On its Tumblr page, the campaign launched a Pokémon Go contest, urging users to play the mobile game app near “locations where alleged incidents of police brutality had taken place.” The rules of the contests even suggested users name their captured Pokémon after victims, according to the report.

Promotion for the contest showed a Pokémon named “Eric Garner.”

Pokémon Go, the mobile application where users interact in the real world through Augmented Reality to capture digital creatures, reached its peak in popularity right around the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The report claims it's unclear exactly what the end goal was for this campaign. However, it appears at the very least to be an attempt to stir up racial tensions. CNN found no evidence suggesting any users participated in the contest.

Niantic, the developers of Pokémon Go, said in a statement to CNN: “It's clear from the images shared with us by CNN that our game assets were appropriated and misused in promotions by third parties without our permission.”

“It is important to note that Pokémon GO, as a platform, was not and cannot be used to share information between users in the app so our platform was in no way being used. This 'contest' required people to take screenshots from their phone and share over other social networks, not within our game. Niantic will consider our response as we learn more.”

After evidence emerged pointing to the campaign's link to the IRA, Facebook removed the account. However, its YouTube page remains active.