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Russia reportedly used Pokémon GO to influence voter sentiment in 2016 US presidential election

Pokemon GO Russian campaign.jpg

Yesterday, CNN ran an exclusive titled "Even Pokémon GO used by extensive Russian-linked meddling effort." The report is shocking and shows the lengths a Russian-linked campaign went to in order to influence voter sentiment during the 2016 presidential elections. The campaign in question cleared favoured president Trump, and used YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and believe it or not, Pokémon GO to create a sentiment that American voters would be 'safer' if Trump was president.

Russian-linked meddling effort involving Pokémon GO

The organisation in question, the Internet Research Agency, had Russian agents pose as representatives of the Black Lives Matter movement under the banner  "Do Not Shoot Us." These agents spread a very specific message about police brutality during the time leading up to the 2016 presidential elections. Below is a summary of those events where it relates specifically to Pokémon GO.

  • July 2016 the website posted a link to their Tumblr account to announce a Pokémon GO contest.
  • The Tumblr account encouraged subscribers to go out and play Pokémon GO - but in specific locations.
  • The listed locations were all where alleged police brutality incidents took place.
  • Players were told to give their Pokémon names corresponding with those of police brutality victims.
  • Players were told to find a Gym near a crime scene.
  • One of the names suggested was that of Eric Garner, an African-American man who died as a result of police brutality.
  • The winners of the Pokémon GO contest would receive $100, $75, or $25 Amazon gift cards.
  • In June 2016 someone using the the Pokémon GO competition email contacted Brandon Weigel, an editor at Baltimore City Paper to promote a protest outside the courthouse where the police officers involved in the arrest of another police brutality victim, Freddie Gray, were to appear.
  • The International Press Foundation received an in-depth study about the American justice system and police brutality from the same email address.

This is the image used in the Pokémon GO contest, provided by CNN.

Russia pokemon GO.jpg

Niantic's responds to the CNN article

In a statement to CNN, Niantic said:

"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 screen shots from their phone and share over other social networks, not within our game. Niantic will consider our response as we learn more."

Russian Foreign Ministry responds to the CNN article

Maria Zakharova, the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, stated on Facebook (using translate):

"The media :" cnn accused Russia of interfering with politics through pokemon go. The Ultimate goal of the campaign, the TV channel, is not clear. Perhaps the creators of the game wanted to provoke African Americans at the same time to protest the of police and at the same time convince the other Americans that black lives matter is a growing threat

Based on the logic of CNN, African Americans are defined with their civic positions playing Pokémon. This is how the TV channel explained the emergence of racial problems in modern America. The Russians are guilty again... and their managed."

Source: CNN

Han: Twitter / MWEB GameZone: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

"our game assets were appropriated and misused"

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