While Facebook and Twitter are being marched into Congressional hearings and investigators are demanding data and records, Tumblr is getting off scot-free.
An expose from BuzzFeed revealed Russian trolls were given free range at Tumblr with hundreds of thousands of interactions on anti–Hillary Clinton, pro–Bernie Sanders memes, stories and pieces of content. The company, however, hasn’t said a word, they haven’t produced documents and they haven’t been hauled into testify before the Congressional committees.
Columbia University Tow Center for Digital Journalism researcher Jonathan Albright found what trolls did on Twitter was similar to Tumblr with Russian-tied users pretending to be black American activists calling Clinton a “monster” while pushing Sanders. They built their accounts by demanding justice for people of color and calling out police violence.
“The evidence we’ve collected shows a highly engaged and far-reaching Tumblr propaganda-op targeting mostly teenage and twenty-something African Americans,” Albright explained. “This appears to have been part of an ongoing campaign since early 2015.”
Both President Donald Trump and the Kremlin have argued that the accusations of Russian intervention in the 2016 campaign was nothing more than an excuse for Clinton’s loss. However, these Tumblr accounts started along with Clinton and Trump’s announcement, proving the alibi is inaccurate.
The usernames that the Congressional committee received from Twitter proved to be the same names on Tumblr and some even had the same avatar and crossposted their content between the two.
BuzzFeed specifically cited 4mysquad Tumblr, which posted a screen capture of a tweet from the Twitter account @4mysquad. The account asked users to “support me on #twitter.”
The account was also responsible for a gif about a police officer sexually assaulting an African-American girl.
The same was true for a Tumblr user blackmattersus, which linked back to a website Blackmattersus.com, which was also a confirmed site run by the Russian troll farm.
“I feel that there is a responsibility here for them to look into this more,” Albright said. “Has not one person at this huge company taken a look at the (list of IRA Twitter accounts released to congress) and said, ‘Maybe we should cross reference user names on Tumblr?'”
Most of the accounts are no longer active but at least two of them are, but they’re publishing completely unrelated content. BuzzFeed noted that it’s possible they were shutdown and then claimed by other users. Their example was dontshootus.tumblr.com, which now pushes out Palestinian content.
When asked for content, Tumblr never responded to the multiple emails, though tracking software indicated the multiple emails were opened more than 290 times and links referenced were clicked at least 70 times.