Russian hacking, 2016 U.S. elections, social media, fake Americans, Russian bots and trolls | Homeland Security Newswire

The Russian connectionRussian Tumblr trolls posed as black activists to stoke racial resentment ahead of 2016 U.S. election

Published 8 February 2018

Internet trolls working for the Russian government posed as black activists on Tumblr to share political messages before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, BuzzFeed reports. As was the case with the fake accounts created by Russian government operatives on other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the fake Tumblr accounts aimed to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election by spreading messages which stoked racial and ethnic resentment and intensified political polarization. A digital forensic analysis tied the fake Tumblr accounts to the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), a hacking and disinformation organization employed by the Kremlin to disseminate fake news and commentary on social media as part of the broad Kremlin campaign to weaken Western democracies and undermine organizations such as NATO and the EU.

Internet trolls working for the Russian government posed as black activists on Tumblr to share political messages before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, BuzzFeed reports.

As was the case with the fake accounts created by Russian government operatives on other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the fake Tumblr accounts aimed to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election by spreading messages which stoked racial and ethnic resentment and intensified political polarization.

The Russian accounts on Tumblr disseminated content on issues such as police violence against young African-Americans.

Buzzfeed says that a digital forensic analysis tied the fake Tumblr accounts to the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), a hacking and disinformation organization employed by the Kremlin to disseminate fake news and commentary on social media as part of the broad Kremlin campaign to weaken Western democracies and undermine organizations such as NATO and the EU.

A researcher at the University of Oxford told BuzzFeed that there were “parallels” with Russian activity on Facebook.

Jonathan Albright of the Tow Centre for Digital Journalism, who worked with Buzzfeed on the Tumblr investigation, said the accounts seemed to be part of an “ongoing campaign” which began in early 2015.

Buzzfeed notes that the more popular Russian posts on Tumblr criticized Hillary Clinton, supported independent Senator Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries, and highlighted police violence against black communities.

In one message, the account 4mysquad shared gifs supposedly showing a black girl being sexually assaulted by a police officer. The officer was falsely identified as a member of the NYPD.

Twitter’s official blog notes that the Tumblr accounts often used the same names as some of the 3,814 IRA-backed Twitter accounts identified by Twitter in its report to Congress.

Facebook and Twitter have been asked to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian interference in the U.S. election, but, until now, Tumblr had not been linked to Russian misinformation campaigns.

Lisa-Maria Neudert, a researcher at the Computational Propaganda Project at the Oxford Internet Institute, said that there were “a lot of parallels” between the trolls’ strategy on Tumblr and other social media sites.

“It’s not about promoting one candidate or message, but about sowing political distrust and confusion, and feeding into fears that society is already having,” she told the BBC.

“Tumblr is really popular among teens, who are very vulnerable and very susceptible to political messages because they haven’t formed political identities yet.”