Russia Apparently Tried to Use Pokemon Go for Propaganda...Poorly

Russia Apparently Tried to Use Pokemon Go for Propaganda...Poorly

Russian-linked group tried to incite racial tensions through...Pokemon Go?

A social media group claiming to be a part of the social justice movement Black Lives Matter, but was revealed to actually be linked to a Russian propaganda apparatus, apparently tried to use Pokémon Go in its social media campaign to sow divisions among users. It wasn't very well thought out.

CNN released a report today on a social media campaign called "Don't Shoot Us" which from a cursory glance appeared to be a social media group allied with social justice. However, CNN linked the group to the Russian-backed troll organization known as the Internet Research Agency, which creates fake posts on social media services like Facebook and Twitter to enflame the United States' already fraught civil divisions.

CNN seemed to suggest that the Russian troll farm was using Pokémon Go as a platform for its propaganda campaign. However the actual details paint a more crass, and less-sophisticated picture.

The fake Pokémon Go contest

The details go like this: CNN uncovered the propaganda organization's website, donotshoot.us, which linked to an affiliated Tumblr page. On July 2016, the Tumblr page held a social media contest using the game Pokemon Go. The contest was completely separate from, and held without the consent of, Pokemon Go developer Niantic.

The contest asked users to go to locations where police brutality have taken place, capture Pokemon from that location, and name their captured Pokemon after prominent figures in the Black Lives Matter movement. The winner who emailed a picture of the winning Pokemon would receive a $100 Amazon gift card.

Not only is this incredibly offensive, but the contest appears to be an attempt at purposefully trying to create divisions and also attempting to link Pokémon Go to social justice movements. It should be noted that, for some reason, the Russian government seems to detest Pokémon Go.

Niantic issued a response to CNN for its investigation saying, "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 also reiterated that Pokémon Go as a game can't directly be used as a platform to share information (or in this case, misinformation), and that the fake contest didn't directly take place within the game itself.

Earlier this year, a Russian YouTuber who filmed himself playing Pokémon Go in a church was convicted for "inciting religious hatred," and was given a three-and-a-half year suspended sentence. Meanwhile talk shows in Russia ran stories that implied Pokémon Go was some kind of mind-control service. Some pundits suggest the Russian government is fearful of Pokemon Go's ability to generate crowds in public, but for whatever reason apparently Pokémon Go is bad in Russia. This could explain why Pokémon Go was used in this particular instance of Russian propaganda.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Matt Kim

News Editor

Matt Kim is a former freelance writer who's covered video games and digital media. He likes video games as spectacle and is easily distracted by bright lights or clever bits of dialogue. He also once wrote about personal finance, but that's neither here nor there.

Read this next

Pokemon Go’s Upcoming Halloween Event Does Even More to Taunt Poor Mimikyu

Niantic heard you like Pikachu, so here's a Pikachu dressed as Mimikyu who's dressed as Pikachu.

Pokemon Go Players Will Soon Be Able to Nominate and Evaluate Their Local Stops With a New Tool

Niantic's Wayfarer looks to curate your local PokeStop offerings.

New Team Rocket Admins are Preparing to Make Trouble in Pokemon Go

Cliff is evil, but his goatee game is on point.

Pokemon Go Eevee - Evolving Eevee into Glaceon and Leafeon

Evolving Eevee in Pokemon Go. How to evolve your Pokemon GO Eevee into one of its five forms: Vaporeon, Flareon, Jolteon, Espeon, or Umbreon in 2019.

Pokemon Go Gen 5 List: Gen 5 Release Date, Unova Region Detailed

Here are all of the Pokemon that will make their way to Pokemon Go as part of the Gen 5 update.

More News

Bloodlines 2 Delayed to Avoid the Issues That Plagued the Original

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 is still targeted for 2020, but it'll come out later than Hardsuit Labs had initially hoped.

League of Legends is Coming to Mobile and Consoles Next Year

League is going mobile over the next year with the slightly different League of Legends: Wild Rift.

More on Android

Fortnite XP Guide - How to Earn XP and Increase Your Level

This is our guide to the new Fortnite XP system, and how you can earn XP to increase your overall level.

Fortnite Medals List - How to Earn New Medals and Refresh the Punchcard

This is our full guide to the new Fortnite Medals system, including how to earn them, and times for the Punchcard refresh.

Fortnite 2 Map - All Named Locations and Landmarks on the New Fortnite Map

This is your overview to the Fortnite 2 map, including all the new landmarks and named locations on the Chapter 2 map.

League of Legends is Coming to Mobile and Consoles Next Year

League is going mobile over the next year with the slightly different League of Legends: Wild Rift.

Fortnite Upgrade Bench - How to Upgrade Your Weapons

Here's how to use the new Upgrade Benches in Fortnite, so you can upgrade your weapons.