The use of Facebook and Twitter by Russians to push political propaganda is now fairly well-known. What many folks don’t know is that Russian trolls took to micro-blogging platform Tumblr to wreak more havoc, posing as Black activists to post anti-Hillary and pro-Bernie content. This is according to an investigation by researcher Jonathan Albright and BuzzFeed News.
“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.
Tumblr has ignored requests from both BuzzFeed and TechCrunch for comment on the research. BuzzFeed says their tracking software found says their email was received and read: it was opened over 290 times and the included links got over 70 clicks. This is not exactly a comforting response from the platform.
The accounts were a part of a fairly successful network of Russian trolls that targeted Black youth in their teens and twenties. Accounts like 4mysquad, fomysquad, and lagonegirl are among the fakes. The investigation found that their reach extended beyond the Tumblr site.
4mysquad and fomysquad consistently reblogged content from lagonegirl and vice versa. Albright said they were part of a tight network of blogs that helped propagate each other’s content. He also documented hundreds of still-available Facebook posts and thousands of tweets with their content, as well as a surprising number of posts on Google Plus and Pinterest. The 1-800-gloup Tumblr also scored a hit on Reddit with a post about slavery that generated 3,600 upvotes and over 800 comments.
It’s time for Tumblr to do the right thing and come clean about the Russian troll activity on its website. The entire in-depth report is worth a read. Check it out here.