CNN released an investigation into Russian-linked accounts used to influence American politics. The accounts had branches in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and Pokemon Go.
The investigation conducted by CNN found that a Russian-linked campaign posing as part of the Black Lives Matter movement used multiple outlets including Pokemon Go and even contacted reporters in “an effort to exploit racial tensions and sow discord among Americans.” by “galvanizing African Americans to protest and encouraging other Americans to view black activism as a rising threat.” The campaign, known as “Don’t Shoot Us,” appears to be part of the Internet Research Agency, which CNN describes as a “shadowy, Kremlin-linked troll farm.” Many believe that this campaign may have influenced the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election.
The Tumblr account for the campaign announced a contest in July 2016 for Pokemon Go players. For the contest, you had to find and train Pokemon near locations of alleged incidents of police brutality as well as name you captured Pokemon after the victim of the incident. The post promoting the contest showed a picture of a Pokemon named after Eric Garner, who died after being put in a chokehold by a New York Police Department officer in August of 2014 as Heavy reported. You then had to capture a gym with the Pokemon and then send a screenshot of your Pokemon owning the gym to the movement. The winner would receive Amazon gift cards.
CNN didn’t find any evidence of Pokemon Go users attempting to enter the contest or if any of the prizes were awarded.
“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,” Niantic told CNN. “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 screenshots from their phone and share over other social networks, not within our game. Niantic will consider our response as we learn more.”
The Tumblr page promoting the contest switched to promoting pro-Palestine campaigns, according to CNN.
The Pokemon Go contest took place in the same month as the shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota as well as the death of five law enforcement officers in Dallas, Texas, as reported by The New York Times. The shooting of the officers took place during a peaceful demonstration against violence committed by officers.
The topic of police brutality came up often throughout the presidential campaign of 2016. In July 2016, then Republican Nominee Donald Trump released a statement in regards to the death of the police officers in Dallas saying that it was “an attack on our country” and called for love and compassion, as ABC News reported. He also said that the police-involved deaths of was senseless and tragic and “reminds us how much more needs to be done.”
ABC News reports that this was Trump’s first public expression of empathy for any African American victim of police violence, though the statement does not mention their race. The publication reports that Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton directly referenced and expressed sympathy to the Black Lives Matter movement in regards to the death of Castile, saying that “America woke up to yet another tragety of a life cut down too soon. Black Lives Matter.” The publication added that in a September 2015 interview on Fox News, Trump said the movement was “looking for trouble” and said that he thinks “it’s a disgrace… Give me a break, all lives matter.”
Later that same month, Trump said that he believes Black Lives Matter has in some cases helped instigate killings of police officers, as CNN reported.
“Certainly, in certain instances they are,” Trump told then Fox News Host Bill O’Reilly when he asked whether or not the movement has been “a fuse-lighter in the assassinations” of the police officers in Dallas. “They certainly have ignited people and you see that… It’s a very, very serious situation and we just can’t let it happen.”
Trump also called the group a “threat” and accused them of “essentially calling death to the police” in reference to a 2014 video of New York City protesters chanting “What do we want? Dead cops.” Millions March NYC, who organized the protest demonstrating against police brutality, disavowed the chants.
In September 2016, Trump said that he would take the controversial stop-and-frisk practice nationwide to stop violence in the black community, according to CNN. The publication reports that civil liberties groups have blasted the practice as targeting minorities and some investigators have questioned its effectiveness. Meanwhile, Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook said that she plans to develop national standards for police intended to “prevent situations like this.” She also told CNN that she wants to “restore bonds between communities and law enforcement.”
The Washington Post reports that in July 2017, Trump said in a speech to law-enforcement officers at Suffolk County Community College in New York that when they put someone in a squad car and shield their head to prevent it from bumping against the car, they should “take the hand away, okay?” The publication reports that after Trump made the speech, police leaders across the country distanced themselves or condemned the statement.