If you were ambiguous about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election, consider the latest news on the topic.
It is being said that Russian trolls infiltrated the blogging site Tumblr posing as activists supporting the Black Lives Matter movement lambasting Hillary Clinton, supporting Bernie Sanders and creating various posts and interactions around issues such as racial disparities and police brutality. The evidence was collected within a joint investigation run by BuzzFeed News and researcher Jonathan Albright.
We already know that Twitter and Facebook were infected by Russian trolls who fed false news stories to the American public, but now Tumblr is the latest social media platform to be added to the list.
Further evidence found that Russian trolls have been working on Tumblr for years, specifically targeting young Black people focusing on messages around Black issues and activism.
“The evidence we’ve collected shows a highly engaged and far-reaching Tumblr propaganda-op targeting mostly teenage and twenty-something African Americans. This appears to have been part of an ongoing campaign since early 2015,” said Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.
One of the most successful accounts run by the Russians was one called 4mysquad, which would garner hundreds of thousands of responses (reblogs, replies, and likes) with every post. Most notoriously, the account created a set of GIFs from video of a Black girl being sexually assaulted by a police officer, including a false claim that the officer was a member of the NYPD.
Tumblr blogger, who goes by alwaysbewoke, said that he was surprised to find out that 4mysquad, which he followed, was run by the Russians.
“There was actually some nuance to the things they were posting. It wasn’t your run of the mill ‘white people are vile’ kind of stuff. It was far more nuanced than that,” he said.
But he said that he unfollowed the account when it became pro-Trump.
“I unfollowed him and the thing that was a red flag was that it was supposedly a black liberal blog that at some point started rooting for Trump to win,” he said. “That kind of pissed a lot of people off, so I kind of backed off and unfollowed.”
Other Black bloggers also noticed that something was up, especially when several of the accounts disappeared suddenly.
Tumblr’s (lack of) response
As for Tumblr itself, the blogging site has not responded to the investigation, something that Albright heavily criticized.
“I feel that there is a responsibility here for them to look into this more,” he said. “Has not one person at this huge company taken a look at the [list of IRA Twitter accounts released to Congress] and said, ‘Maybe we should cross reference user names on Tumblr?'”
Tumblr users agree, with the alwaysbewoke blogger saying Tumblr should make it a point to follow Twitter and Facebook’s example and tell users about the trolls if they interacted with them.
“The companies disclosing these accounts help bring it to the forefront, and it helps people realize that these are things that actually touch on your life,” he said. “To a certain degree, when it comes to this Russian investigation, people kind of feel like it’s something happening over there. They don’t realize it’s something they may have interacted with.”