Tumblr troll-ban follows February indictments

Russian pro-propaganda accounts boosted, but posts remain in place so users can delete them or not

A group of Russian “troll factory” operators indicted in February were tagged by Tumblr last year.

The Oath-owned microblogging site said last Friday that it identified the suspect accounts during (northern hemisphere) Autumn 2017.

The outfit's post said “we uncovered 84 Tumblr accounts linked to the Russian government through the Internet Research Agency, or IRA. These accounts were being used as part of a disinformation campaign leading up to the 2016 U.S. Election”.

Following that discovery the company terminated the accounts, deleted their posts, and notified US authorities.

"As far as we can tell, the IRA-linked accounts were only focused on spreading disinformation in the U.S., and they only posted organic content. We didn’t find any indication that they ran ads," Tumblr's post said.

The company will also email "anyone who liked, reblogged, replied to, or followed an IRA-linked account with the list of usernames they engaged with."

When the 13 Russian nationals were indicted in February 2018, special counsel Robert Mueller said the trolls would fabricate American identities like staceyredneck@gmail.com to open PayPal accounts and purchase advertisements, presumably on platforms other than Tumblr.

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"We’ve decided to leave up any reblog chains that might be on your Tumblrs — you can choose to leave them or delete them," Tumblr's post adds. "We’re letting you decide because the reblog chains contain posts created by real Tumblr users, often challenging or debunking the false and incendiary claims in the IRA-linked original post. Removing those authentic posts without your consent would encroach on your free speech—and there have been enough disruptions to our conversations as it is."

If the site detects future “state-sponsored disinformation campaigns”, the company said, it will terminate accounts, notify users if they follow, repost, like or reply to a troll account, add the suspect account to the public record, and call law enforcement. ®

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