Tumblr confirmed on Friday that Russian trolls spread misinformation on the blogging service in prelude to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Tumbler, part of the Verizon Communications’-owned Oath media group, said it discovered last fall that 84 accounts were linked to the Internet Research Agency. This Russian propaganda outfit was one of the groups identified in a recent Justice Department indictment alleging the Kremlin’s role in spreading fake news through popular social media services to increase division among Americans and interfere with the 2016 presidential elections.
Tumblr’s confirmation that Russia-linked groups misused its service follows a similar admission by social media forum operator Reddit in early March. The IRA and other Russian-linked entities were also alleged by the DOJ to have spread fake news and misleading online advertising on social networks like Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR).
Tumblr said that after discovering the questionable accounts, it contacted U.S. law enforcement, terminated the accounts, and deleted the posts, the contents of which Tumblr did not describe. The Russian-linked Tumblr accounts spread misinformation via “organic content,” or conventional postings, rather than online ads, Tumblr said.
The blogging service said it worked “behind the scenes” with the DOJ and provided information that led to the Justice Department’s indictment, revealed in February.
“Remember, the IRA and other state-sponsored disinformation campaigns play off our zero-sum politics,” Tumblr said in a statement. “They want to drive a wedge between us so that we spend our time fighting with each other instead of building towards the future. We’ll be watching for signs of future activity, but the best defense is knowing how they operate and how to judge the content you see.”
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Tumblr said it would notify users who interacted with any of the IRA-linked accounts and that it would keep a public record of usernames associated with those accounts. Some of the IRA-linked usernames include 1-800-gloup, best-usa-today, ricordio, and stopropaganda, according to a separate Tumblr post.