An investigation by CNN has discovered that suspected Russian actors allegedly used the popular augmented-reality game Pokemon Go to sow discord and fuel racial tensions among Americans during the 2016 US presidential election.
The report alleged that a Tumblr page linked to a supposed Russian hacking group promoted a contest encouraging people involved in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement to play Pokemon Go at sites known for being scenes of police brutality. The aim, the report claimed, was to inflame racial tensions.
In what seems an elaborate, and rather contrived, scheme, players were apparently told to change their characters’ names to victims of the incidents.
A post by ‘Eric Garner’, the name of a man who died after being put in a chokehold by police in Staten Island, New York, in 2014, even promoted a contest offering the winner an Amazon Prime gift card. CNN found no evidence that anyone entered the contest.
Twitter has reacted with all its usual wit and imagination. The story’s seemingly farcical nature proved too much for some people.
Others quickly decided that riffing on the cartoonish turn of events was the way to go.
Some sought to pour scorn on the idea that supposed Russian meddling in the popular augmented-reality game would keep people from going to the polls.
i was gonna vote in november but then russian bulbasaur told me ‘not to pokemon go to the polls after all’ and i foolishly assented
— Luke Savage (@LukewSavage) October 12, 2017
Concern grew, too, for how the story might affect former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s special investigation into alleged election meddling.
One user felt Pikachu’s reported betrayal was near-Shakespearean, while another painted the much-loved cartoon characters in the same poor light as some Trump supporters.