Amongst growing evidence of Russian backed meddling in American politics and society, CNN has reported that along with social media such as Youtube and Facebook, the incredibly popular Pokemon Go has also been used to further their goals. The Internet Research Agency (IRA) is a Kremlin-backed group that is known to be responsible for creating false social media accounts and websites in an effort to sway public opinion and effect American politics. 470 facebook and twitter accounts have been suspended for their connection to the group, including “Don’t Shoot Us”. Don’t Shoot Us posed as a Black Lives Matter (BLM) group posting on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Tumblr and even attempted to use Pokemon Go in order to influence the political arena,
The “Don’t Shoot Us” name itself is easily tied to the BLM slogan “Hand’s Up, Don’t Shoot!” and throughout its social media and its websites, Don’t Shoot Us has posted extensively about police brutality and BLM issues, until recently. The Don’t Shoot Us Facebook page used their influence to promote real protests and real events, going so far as to contact Baltimore City Paper editor Brandon Weigel, to promote a protest at a courthouse.
In July of 2016, Don’t Shoot Us created a contest in which players were encouraged to go to a site of alleged police brutality against Black Americans, capture pokemon, naming them after the victims of the crimes, and then share them on social media and e-mail them to an email address. The winner who captured the most pokemon would receive a $100 Amazon gift card. Of course, no evidence that this contest was actually valid exists. Niantic has stated that not only were their assets used without permission but that, because Pokemon Go does not allow for the sharing of messages and data, no such contest could occur within the game itself.
What’s the point of the IRA running these sorts of campaigns? The theory is that by stoking the fires of frustration and fear, the IRA will be better able to forecast and influence political maneuvering. By creating division between Americans, in this case along the racial divide, they hope to create a weaker sociopolitical landscape. They have not given up, at this time, the Don’t Shoot Us Tumblr is being used to promote a pro-Palestinian message.