Cambridge Analytica. Mark Zuckerberg. Steve Bannon. Russians pushing propaganda on Facebook and Twitter. Yeah, you’ve heard it all before, but did you know that Russian agents were posing as furries on Tumblr to destabilise the crucial ‘Riverdale stans’, K-Pop obsessive, secretly-looking-at—‘arty’-porn in the office demographic? Because they were. And Tumblr just admitted it.
This morning, my colleague Niky received an email from Tumblr listing blogs that he followed on the social network which have, upon further inspection, been linked to Russian-state-linked actors. Yep, that’s right — it’s official, the propaganda machine got its tentacles deep into a site where tentacle porn is, well, depressingly common.
The image of Boris and Natasha hunched over a laptop generating pro-Trump furry porn is too delicious. But at a certain level this is just as worrying as any of the other concealed influence exerted by foreign agents on our societies. Tumblr is a place where a huge number of young people spend a lot of their time. There are 392 million blog accounts on the service and many users live in their dashboards — the constant river of posts from blogs they follow.
Let’s take a look at the blogs that Tumblr suggests were under Russian control, one of which was unwittingly followed by my D&D-loving, anime-obsessed friend:
bellaxiao previously known as: blogmadworldlove
blackness-by-your-side previously known as: black-galaxy-magic, fullyfurrymiracle, u4guy, ufo-pilot-and-his-sexy-spouse
cartnsncreal previously known as: feelmydragonballs
destinyrush previously known as: delightfullyghostlysong
funkycodex previously known as: craftykryptonitedelusion
gogomrbrown previously known as: go-mrbrown, infectedv0ice, todd-la-death
hustleinatrap previously known as: thenaturecanpost, tumblercube
info-mix previously known as: americanstatistics, crazypolitician, girlsagainst, illegalmom, just-stat, rochelbarr
massmedear previously known as: massblog021
morningwoodz previously known as: 5cubes, bangbangempire, empireofweird, gifemprireohh, innerpicsempire, picsempire
nevaehtyler previously known as: laserenita
postingwhileblack previously known as: ghettablasta, heygeraldmartinjohanssen, honestinjun, nativewolveshere
rebellloudwiththecrowd previously known as: massivelystrangetyrant
sumchckn previously known as: blondeinpolitics, blvckcommunity, classylgbthomie, hwuudoin, politixblondie
swagintherain previously known as: blacklivesmatterusa, carzwithgirlz
thetrippytrip previously known as: matrixpath, themostpost
thingstolovefor previously known as: the-inner-mirror
this-truly-brutal-world previously known as: awesomewhitepearl, free-mind-and-soul
voteforwest2020 previously known as: mrbadasscat
Notice in that list how many accounts are related in some way to black politics, LGBT issues, American “statistics”, with some even explicitly attempting to appear connected to Black Lives Matter.
It’s fun to laugh at the idea of the Russians trying to mimic the syntax and obsessions of Tumblr teens but it’s clear they saw the site as another conduit for disruption and division. To have legitimate campaigns such as Black Lives Matter and LGBT rights efforts undermined is a huge issue.
At this point, it feels like an over-repeated mantra but this incident only emphasises one of the core tenets of living online: check your sources and be sceptical. It’s all too easy to believe an account that wears the trappings of a sub-culture or campaign you identify with. And intelligence agencies know that, even if it means they have to pretend to be someone who believes they are actually the human embodiment of a wolf.
I’m down with furries. I just don’t like Russians pretending to know what yiffing means. And no, don’t Google it.