Et tu, Pikachu? CNN claim Russia used Pokemon Go to meddle in US elections mocked online

An investigation by CNN has discovered that suspected Russian actors allegedly used the popular augmented-reality game Pokemon Go to sow discord and fuel racial tensions among Americans during the 2016 US presidential election.

The report alleged that a Tumblr page linked to a supposed Russian hacking group promoted a contest encouraging people involved in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement to play Pokemon Go at sites known for being scenes of police brutality. The aim, the report claimed, was to inflame racial tensions.

In what seems an elaborate, and rather contrived, scheme, players were apparently told to change their characters’ names to victims of the incidents. A post by ‘Eric Garner’, the name of a man who died after being put in a chokehold by police in Staten Island, New York, in 2014, even promoted a contest offering the winner an Amazon Prime gift card. CNN found no evidence that anyone entered the contest.

“According to CNN logic, African Americans shape their public stance playing Pokemons,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook. “That is how feebly the TV channel explains the emergence of racial problems in modern USA. Russians are to blame again… and the Pokemons they control.”

CNN seems to be jumping on any story that sheds a negative light on Russia, Jennifer Breedon, an attorney with specializations in International and Criminal Law, told RT.

“It does not even talk about the election. In fact, CNN has been crying from the hilltops about Russia meddling in the election from day one,” Breedon said. “We don't know what's happened. We do not know the facts, the evidence of this ‘CNN investigation’.”

Accusing Russia of forcing someone to visit specific places is absurd, the lawyer said, arguing that people play games of their own free will. Any racial tensions that Russia is being accused of sparking already exist in US society, she noted.

“And so for the CNN to be targeting or highlighting something like this as breaking news, specifically highlighting any elements from Pokemon Go within the investigation without providing any evidence, is actually kind of indicative of how little facts they’ve had and how much they are trying to continue to paint this election as a big Russian conspiracy.”

Twitter has reacted with all its usual wit and imagination. The story’s seemingly farcical nature proved too much for some people.

Others quickly decided that riffing on the cartoonish turn of events was the way to go.

Some sought to pour scorn on the idea that supposed Russian meddling in the popular augmented-reality game would keep people from going to the polls.

Concern grew, too, for how the story might affect former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s special investigation into alleged election meddling.

One user felt Pikachu’s reported betrayal was near-Shakespearean, while another painted the much-loved cartoon characters in the same poor light as some Trump supporters.

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