CNN: Russia Tried Using Pokemon Go to Increase Racial Tensions in U.S.

Asked players to share pictures of Pokémon renamed after victims of police brutality

Credit: Bloomberg/Getty

Russia's efforts to influence the social and media landscape of the U.S. includes ties to Pokémon Go and a call for players to connect the locations of alleged police brutality to the game, according to CNN's investigation of a Russia-linked social account.

One Russian-linked campaign posing as part of the Black Lives Matter movement used Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and Pokémon Go in an effort to exploit racial tensions and sow discord among Americans, CNN reports.

"The campaign, titled 'Don't Shoot Us,' offers new insights into how Russian agents created a broad online ecosystem where divisive political messages were reinforced across multiple platforms, amplifying a campaign that appears to have been run from one source - the shadowy, Kremlin-linked troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency," according to the CNN story.

That Don't Shoot Us Facebook page, which was one of the 470 accounts taken down after the company determined they were linked to the IRA, linked to a website, which linked to a Tumblr account for the group.

That Tumblr account held a contest in July 2016 asking people to go to real world locations of alleged incidents of police brutality, capture a Pokémon using the Pokémon Go game and then rename their creature after a victim from the incident. Because the game doesn't allow the sharing of a pet's name, the contest asked players to take a screenshot of the name and post it no a social network.

It's unclear if anyone entered the contest, if the promised Amazon gift cards offered as prizes were awarded, or if any of the images of renamed Pokémon were ever shared.

Reached for comment by CNN, Pokémon Go developer Niantic said that it looked as if a third-party were trying to misuse the assets of the game and noted that no custom names or text can be shared through the game. The company also said they would keep an eye on the potential issue.

While that Facebook page is no longer up, the website is still live as is the Tumblr page. The Tumblr page, though, now seems to be focusing on issues involving Israel and Palestine. The art at the top of the page now reads: "Free Palestine." And the site's name is now listed on the page as Don't Shoot Us: Free Palestine. The stories on the site, which according to Archive.Org were once about allegations of police brutality, are now about Palestine and Israel relations.