Facebook said it will release a feature that lets users see if they liked pages associated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll outfit.
‘Fall for perception distorting bait from a Russian troll? Not me!’ Or so we’d like to think. The truth is that, in the heated back and forth of the 2016 presidential election, many of us may have liked, shared or otherwise helped promote memes and messages ginned up at one of the many troll factories set up by the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin. There’s so much that scrolls through our news feed on a daily basis- who can say for sure?
Well, Facebook can…and will. Soon.
The company said on Wednesday that it would soon make it easier for its users to figure out whether they were an unwitting collaborator with Russian troll outfits like the Internet Research Agency, a professional troll outfit that operates from St. Petersburg, Russia, and that is believed to have played a major role in fomenting disinformation during the 2016 election in the U.S. and other elections abroad. The social networking giant has created a portal to enable Facebook users to see which (if any) of the Internet Research Agency Facebook Pages or Instagram accounts they may have liked or followed between January 2015 and August 2017.
The tool is not yet available, but will be by the end of the year in the Facebook Help Center. A mock-up of the feature, included on Facebook’s blog, shows a listing of Facebook Pages known to be associated with the Internet Research Agency, with names like Heart of Texas, Being Patriotic and Blacktivist. Users can see the date on which they liked or followed the page.
“It is important that people understand how foreign actors tried to sow division and mistrust using Facebook before and after the 2016 US election,” Facebook said in its post. Facebook said it is continuing to uncover information on how foreign governments used its platforms to spread misinformation and will share it publicly and provide it to congressional investigators as it does so.
Though CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially scoffed at the notion that his company had been used as a tool by Russian government operators during the election, the company gradually came to acknowledge the truth of that. In September, Facebook said it would provide Congress with copies of ads linked to Internet Research Agency. It has also acknowledged that up to 10 million of its users directly viewed ads linked to Russian disinformation campaigns. However, the true number of users who were exposed to ads or posts linked to the disinformation campaign is much larger. Facebook estimates that as many as 126 million people may have viewed posts created by Russian actors and designed to spread disinformation and sow dissent.