The meme-laden Tumblr platform is the latest social media and blogging shop to be uncovered as a distribution channel for Russian agents to rip at America’s societal fault line and seek to influence citizens’ voting habits, according to a report by BuzzFeed News.
Facebook and Twitter ought to have securely in the spotlight on this issue since the stun make of the 2016 US presidential election. Google has also self-reported on Russian disinformation on its scaffolds. But the role of other social programmes in spreading Kremlin propaganda has faced less scrutiny thus far.
BuzzFeed worked with researcher, Jonathan Albright, from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, to determine Russian-backed account activity on Tumblr. It says the analysis discloses “a strong, primarily unrevealed network of Russian trolls focused on pitch-black matters and activism” which dates back to early 2015.
Some of the Russian-linked blogging activity on Tumblr was apparently aimed at boosting support for Bernie Sanders at the expense of eventual Democratic candidate nominee Hillary Clinton. The Democratic campaigner process concluded in July 2016. While the US presidential election itself was held on November 8, 2016.
“The evidence we’ve accumulated proves a highly committed and far-reaching Tumblr propaganda-op targeting principally youthful and twenty-something African Americans, ” Albright is mentioned as saying.
“This appears to have been part of an ongoing expedition since early 2015, ” he added.
We’ve reached out to Tumblr owner Oath‘s press agency with questions about studies and research — at the time of writing the company has not replied.( For the record Tumblr proprietor Oath is likewise TechCrunch’s parent firm .)
Oath did not respond to BuzzFeed’s is asking for comment on its research.
The methodology used for unmasking Russian agents on Tumblr appears to be a pretty simple one: The investigates cross-referenced Tumblr chronicles that used “the same, or very similar” usernames from a schedule of known Internet Research Agency( IRA) notes, previously submitted by Twitter to congressional investigates.( The IRA being one of the confirmed Russian trollfarms; others are also known to exist .)
Incidentally, last month Twitter revised this Russian bot directory — saying it had now identified an additional 13 k Russian-linked bots that had cleared election-related tweets, propagandizing the total figure to more than 50,000.( Of those it said about 3,800 were linked to the IRA .)
In January Twitter also said it now had considered that 1. 4M parties had engaged with Russian trolls during the US election.
It’s has still not been clear how impactful Kremlin agents’ Tumblr dis-ops were. But the most successful of the Russian-linked Tumblr reports identified by BuzzFeed’s analysis had clearly originated multiple poles engendering hundreds of “notes” on Tumblr( aka totaled likes, reblogs, acknowledgments etc ).
The research too noticed Russian-linked Tumblr histories cross-posting content from other social scaffolds — including Twitter and Instagram.
BuzzFeed says most of the accounts it linked to the IRA “re no longer” active on Tumblr, although it specifies that two are still sharing content on the pulpit( although it was describes the content as “completely unrelated”, and belief it’s possible that account possession has since changed ).
In expressions of those kinds of socially controversial material being shared via these Russian-linked Tumblrs, BuzzFeed cites precedents that was asked to join Clinton to a former KKK leader; complaints about unjust media coverage of a Sanders rally; and condemned ethnic injustice and police cruelty in the US.
After Clinton won the Democratic nomination, some of the Russian-linked Tumblrs that had been backing Sanders apparently started propagandizing pro-Trump content.
The research likewise dug a structure of joins out from Tumblr to “thousands of still-remaining Twitter affixes, black culture blogs, at least several hundred still-remaining Facebook announces, sign-ups for online petitions, and a number of Reddit strands related to pro-Bernie bulletin, Hillary conspiracies, and in-classroom racial matters”, according to Albright.
Given the cross-referencing method that was used to ID Russian activity it’s perfectly possible other Kremlin-backed Tumblr reports lied on the programme( and/ or still dwell) — but which have yet to be identified.
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