Tumblr deleted 84 accounts that it says were linked to the Russian Internet Research Agency and were “used as part of a disinformation campaign leading up to the 2016 U.S. election.”
The company is “taking steps to protect against future interference in our political conversation by state-sponsored propaganda campaigns,” Tumblr announced in a Friday post on its staff blog.
Tumblr, which is owned by HuffPost’s parent company Oath, says it uncovered this information last fall and is only alerting users now after investigations have been completed. It added that it is now working to “protect Tumblr in the future.”
During the investigation, the company notified law enforcement, terminated the IRA-linked accounts and deleted all of their original posts. It also said the company worked with the Department of Justice, providing officials information that ultimately helped indict 13 people who worked for the agency.
The blog post also gives readers a run-down of what the Russian agency did, what Tumblr is doing in response to the investigation and how the company plans to stop future disinformation campaigns.
“First, we’ll be emailing anyone who liked, reblogged, replied to, or followed an IRA-linked account with the list of usernames they engaged with,” the post says.
The email looks like this:
Tumblr also said it will begin keeping a public record of usernames linked to the IRA and that it will “be monitoring Tumblr for signs of state-sponsored disinformation campaigns.” It also encouraged users to keep an eye out for propagandists, be skeptical of what they’re reading and call out people who are spreading misinformation.
Additionally, the post asks for users to vote.
“Transparency won’t mean a thing if we don’t participate in the process. Whatever your political stance, voting ensures a government that represents your interests,” the post reads.
Tumblr declined a HuffPost request for further comment.
The announcement comes after much speculation that Tumblr, like Facebook and Twitter, was facilitating trolls working for the Russia-backed agency. BuzzFeed News reported last month that Russian online trolls posing as black activists on Tumblr had created “hundreds of thousands of interactions for content that ranged from calling Hillary Clinton a ‘monster’ to supporting Bernie Sanders and decrying racial injustice and police violence in the US.”
Prior to Friday’s blog post, Tumblr had not disclosed anything publicly about Russian interference on its platform.
Many on Twitter praised Tumblr for transparency. Others shared the emails they received from the company:
among the social platforms, i think @tumblr is doing an admirable job taking a clear stance against disinformation and being transparent about what that involves, including this email i got notifying me which russia-linked accounts i had interacted with previously pic.twitter.com/wn927WwaoW
— Jenny G. Zhang (@jennygzhang) March 23, 2018
Man, can’t even follow a moose blog on Tumblr these days without being trolled by Russia. pic.twitter.com/JuTbqLMe7R
— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) March 23, 2018
I think it should be pointed out that due to the way Tumblr’s platform works, it’s highly unlikely this Russia-linked blogs were able to accomplish much. Individual users are incredibly unimportant on Tumblr. Virality on the site doesn’t really work the way it does on Twitter.
— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) March 23, 2018
.@Tumblr says Russia-linked operatives used their platform and posed as community members. Tumblr has released the usernames of the accounts. Here’s the email I just got: pic.twitter.com/VmgucMwOFK
— Alex Rabinowitz (@alexrab) March 23, 2018
Tumblr wouldn’t answer our Qs about specific accounts we identified to them – incl “Hustle In A Trap” (lol) & “Ghetta Blasta” – as creations of the Russian troll farm. Now, lo and behold, Tumblr is identifying them & others as “linked to state-sponsored disinformation campaigns.
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) March 23, 2018
As BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick notes in his tweet, it is highly unlikely that these Russia-linked blogs were able to do much with their accounts as the platform doesn’t facilitate viral content in the same way Twitter does.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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