Tumblr finally names the 84 accounts it says were Russian trolls
On Friday, Tumblr published a list of accounts that it said were linked to "state-sponsored disinformation campaigns."
The list of 84 accounts appeared to have been suspended or deleted, and they are believed to be linked to Russian efforts to influence Americans in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Other tech companies, including Twitter, Facebook, and Google, have previously come forward and even testified before Congress concerning what they experienced on their platforms. However, Tumblr, which is owned by Oath (a Verizon subsidiary), has not.
In February, Special Counsel Robert Mueller released a 37-page indictment against the Internet Research Agency, a well-known Russian bot and troll factory, and named 13 Russians on charges of "conspiracy to defraud the United States," wire fraud, and bank fraud, among others. Tumblr, however, was not specifically named.
"Last fall, we uncovered 84 Tumblr accounts linked to the Russian government through the Internet Research Agency, or IRA," the company wrote in a statement. "These accounts were being used as part of a disinformation campaign leading up to the 2016 US election. After uncovering the activity, we notified law enforcement, terminated the accounts, and deleted their original posts. Behind the scenes, we worked with the Department of Justice, and the information we provided helped indict 13 people who worked for the IRA."
Tumblr spokesman Charles Stewart did not respond to Ars’ request for comment as to whether this list was comprehensive or why it took so long to be released. He simply referred us to the company's blog post.
In February 2018, BuzzFeed News reported on these Tumblr accounts largely based on research done by Jonathan Albright, the research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. But Tumblr never responded, despite opening the email BuzzFeed News sent nearly 300 times.
In a brief interview, Albright told Ars that of the accounts listed, one known as 4mysquad was "far and away the most influential account on Tumblr" that was controlled by IRA. (That Tumblr page also had a Twitter account under the same name.)
When Ars briefly went through some of the old posts saved on the Internet Archive, it seemed that relatively few posts were directly pertinent to the presidential campaign. Many of the posts, for instance, touched on black-oriented social justice topics. We did find one post that specifically advocated in favor of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.
"Routinely you’ll see the pattern where they post conversational things and then when it’s time to drive in something, they will basically push something really hard, but they’re not always pushing out very explicit messages," Albright said. "The amount of stuff that was put out was staggering. It takes a lot of work to do that."
We have posted a few images captured from 4mysquad’s account below.