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October 12, 2017

Even the short-lived fervor over the cell phone game Pokémon Go was used as a tool by Russian agents to influence the 2016 presidential election, a new report by CNN has found.

A Russian-linked account masquerading as a Black Lives Matter activist group called Don't Shoot Us apparently had the "dual goal of galvanizing African-Americans to protest and encouraging other Americans to view black activism as a rising threat," CNN reports. In addition to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts (all of which are now suspended), Don't Shoot Us carried out its agenda by way of a Pokémon Go contest in which followers could allegedly win Amazon gift cards by training Pokémon near locations where police brutality took place.

"A post promoting the contest showed a Pokémon named 'Eric Garner,' for the African-American man who died after being put in a chokehold by a New York Police Department officer," CNN writes, adding:

It's unclear what the people behind the contest hoped to accomplish, though it may have been to remind people living near places where these incidents had taken place of what had happened and to upset or anger them.

CNN has not found any evidence that any Pokémon Go users attempted to enter the contest, or whether any of the Amazon Gift Cards that were promised were ever awarded — or, indeed, whether the people who designed the contest ever had any intention of awarding the prizes. [CNN]

Google, Facebook, and Twitter have all reported that their platforms were used by Russian agents to influence the 2016 presidential campaign. "It's clear from the images shared with us by CNN that our game assets were appropriated and misused in promotions by third parties without our permission," added Niantic, the company that made Pokémon Go.

Don't Shoot Us remains active on YouTube and Tumblr, where it now reportedly posts about Palestine. Jeva Lange

February 18, 2017
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Makers of augmented reality games like Pokémon Go must apply for a permit to place their virtual monsters on public property in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, thanks to a new county ordinance. The popular game and its imitators have led to unprecedented foot-traffic in Milwaukee County parks, and more park use means more trash, dirtier bathrooms, and a busier schedule for local police.

"We're prepared for all of them now," said Milwaukee County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman, who wrote the ordinance that will require game developers like Niantic, the makers of Pokémon Go, to apply for event permits if their apps place digital attractions on public land. Wasserman says the county will take legal action against game makers that do not comply, enforcing fines of up to $1,000.

Critics argue the ordinance is a misplaced punishment. "If someone crashes their car while using [Google Maps], it's not Google Maps' responsibility to pay for the damages. That falls on the user," said County Supervisor Eddie Cullen, who opposed the rule. "If a Pokémon Go player litters or damages something in the parks, it should be the responsibility of the player, not the corporation, to pay for damages." Bonnie Kristian

August 16, 2016
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Scott Dodich and Jayme Gotts-Dodich have a clear message for the Pokémon Go players who have invaded their local park and private cul-de-sac in St. Clair Shores, Michigan: Get off of their lawn! Also, don't park in front of their driveway and those of their neighbors, and don't trample their landscaping and look in their windows — and, when they ask you to leave their property, don't yell, "Shut up b****, or else," as one Pokémon Go fan did, according to a federal class action lawsuit the Dodiches filed against three companies that make, sell, or own Pokémon Go: Niantic, Nintendo, and Pokemon Co.

"Nobody gets sleep anymore," says the lawsuit, filed Aug. 10 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Pokémon players "hang out on our lawns, trample landscaping, look in vehicles... We don't feel safe... I don't feel safe sitting on our porch." This is Niantic's fault, the Dodich suit claims, because the company places Pokéstops and Pokémon gyms (GPS coordinates where the virtual creatures appear) on or near private property with "a flagrant disregard for the foreseeable consequences of populating the real world with virtual Pokémon without seeking the permission of property owners."

And Niantic knows this, the Dodiches say, pointing to a warning on the company website: "If you can't get to the Pokéstop because it's on private property, there will be more just around the corner, so don't worry!" The couple says they contacted the company and its CEO several times before the lawsuit, receiving only form letters promising some response that, as of the lawsuit's filing, hadn't materialized. Niantic, Nintendo, and Pokémon did not respond when the Detroit Free Press reached out for comment on Monday.

The Dodiches asked for a jury trial, according to the lawsuit, which you can read at Detroit's WDIV. That's risky, given how many people love the virtual creature hunt. But if they get a jury of people who agree that it's not okay for random people to trample through your private land, Niantic and its codefendants might be out some serious cash. The Dodich suit already pointed to some public cases of Pokéstops programmed in inappropriate or private locales, so the class might be large. Peter Weber

August 7, 2016
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Iran has become the first country to ban popular augmented reality game Pokémon Go thanks to a decision handed down by — and this is a real government agency — the High Council of Virtual Spaces.

The council cited "security concerns," which some have speculated may have to do with the app's propensity for causing groups to congregate in public and leading people on exploring expeditions at all hours of the night.

Previously, the game was banned for sex offenders in New York and on-duty police officers in Indonesia. A prominent Islamic cleric from Saudi Arabia also declared his view that a 16-year-old fatwa on the card game version of Pokémon applies to the app. The fatwa was issued on the grounds that the game contains "forbidden images" and encourages gambling. Bonnie Kristian

August 2, 2016
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Police in Arizona say a couple left their toddler son home alone on a hot night with no water so they could play Pokémon Go.

Brent Daley, 27, and Brianne Daley, 25, have been charged with child neglect and endangerment, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. Authorities say they received a phone call at 10:30 p.m. Sunday night from a person in San Tan Valley saying they found their neighbors' two-year-old "screaming and crying [and] attempting to get into the residence," Fox 10 Phoenix reports. When officers arrived, they found a barefoot, dirty, and red-faced toddler, who was left alone in 95-degree heat without any water.

When deputies got inside the boy's house, they found a phone number for Brent Daley. Police say when they called him to say his child had been abandoned, he allegedly answered the phone, said "Whatever," and hung up. When the Daleys arrived back home, they first claimed to have gone to get gas, but later admitted to officers they spent the previous 90 minutes driving around the area, stopping at parks and other places to play Pokémon Go. Sheriff Paul Babeu said that while his agency has warned people about being safe while playing the game, "we never would have imagined that parents would abandon a child to play Pokémon Go." Catherine Garcia