Tumblr is the latest social media service to uncover Russian state-sponsored efforts to spread propaganda during the 2016 presidential election.
On Friday, Tumblr said it linked 84 accounts to the Internet Research Agency, an organization accused of running an internet troll farm for the Russian government.
Tumblr uncovered the fake accounts last fall and shut them down. “What makes them so difficult to spot is that they’re not spambots. They’re real people who get trained and paid to spread propaganda,” the company said.
BuzzFeed reported on the problem in February, when a researcher noticed that Russian-controlled Tumblr accounts were posing as black activists. The accounts offered critical takes on Hillary Clinton, local police, and white people via memes, animated GIFs, and shared tweets written in English—leaving little reason to suspect the content came from Russia.
Tumblr remained quiet on the matter until Friday when the service explained it had been helping the Department of Justice investigate the fake accounts. This culminated in a federal indictment last month that charged the Internet Research Agency and 13 suspects of trying to meddle in the US election through fake social media accounts.
Tumblr now plans on emailing users who liked, reblogged, replied to, or followed any of the Russian-controlled accounts. “Second, we’re going to start keeping a public record of usernames we’ve linked to the IRA (Internet Research Agency) or other state-sponsored disinformation campaigns,” the service said.
The account names include “bleepthepolice,” “4mysquad,” “swagintherain,” “black-to-the-bones,” and “stopropaganda.” Tumblr is also advising its users to be on guard against future misinformation campaigns. US intelligence officials have warned that foreign agents could very well strike social media again, it said.
In the meantime, Tumblr said it’ll monitor account activity for signs of bad actors, and remove the offending accounts. “Disinformation campaigns work because they know people don’t fact check,” Tumblr said. “Look for reliable sources, and double-check that the source really says the same thing as the post.”