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Russian TV Uses U.S. Protest Footage To Illustrate Pokemon Fallout

  • Tom Balmforth

Russian nationalists and former security officers have said the Pokemon augmented-reality game could be an elaborate CIA plot to get smartphone users to take pictures of sensitive locations in Russia, which could then be harvested by the U.S. intelligence agency. (file photo)

Russian nationalists and former security officers have said the Pokemon augmented-reality game could be an elaborate CIA plot to get smartphone users to take pictures of sensitive locations in Russia, which could then be harvested by the U.S. intelligence agency. (file photo)

MOSCOW -- The Pokemon Go smartphone game has led its users into a raft of mishaps, with a slew of reports of engrossed gamers crashing their cars, being robbed, and even two men walking off a cliff while playing.

But these accidents weren't enough for Russia's Channel One, which reported on some real incidents, but also used unrelated footage from a protest in the U.S. city of Oakland to illustrate its report.

The sped-up footage, which starts at 2:01 in the news clip and runs for just a few seconds, shows crowds of people swarming onto a five-lane highway as cars are forced to swerve or stop to avoid collisions.

"In this video, a crowd of Pokemon hunters throw themselves onto a busy highway so that the cars barely have time to brake," the Channel One newsreader says.

The erroneous footage was spotted by Russian journalist Aleksei Kovalyov, whose Noodle Remover project debunks propaganda or fake news reports.

Kovalyov identified the footage as that of a July 8 protest in Oakland against the killing of two black men by police officers in the United States.

"Even in a report about Pokemons, Channel One can't not cheat," wrote Kovalyov.

Pokemon Go is a popular new augmented-reality game that sees players use their mobile phones to "hunt" animated creatures in real-life locations. It has not been officially released yet in Russia, but it has generated considerable hype and been met with deep suspicion from conservative official quarters and some in the security establishment.

Ultranationalists and former security service officers have claimed the application could be an elaborate scheme by the CIA to outsource espionage to unsuspecting users.

So, the claim goes, users hunting for Pokemon will point their smartphone cameras at sensitive areas of Russia's territory and Americans will be able to harvest the information.

A Cossack organization in St. Petersburg has said the application "smacks of Satan," while a Communist Party lawmaker on July 20 appealed formally for the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Communications Ministry to ban the game for security reasons.

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