Bold news from Facebook: the social media giant will create and release a new tool that gives users the power to identify content released by Russian influencers. The data contained within the tool dates back to between January 2015 and August 2017, a time when the platform struggled greatly with fake news and erroneous influences. Facebook was eventually able to identify that the profiles and groups were little more than propaganda websites published by people either living in or working with Russia.
- Tracking down the pages wasn’t easy, but Facebook did eventually identify the connection. Every single page or profile was connected to the same Kremlin-linked group called the Internet Research Agency (IRA). The organization’s main goal was to interfere with the American mindset and “influence the 2016 election.”
- Russian-linked pages also focused on highly-inflammatory issues in the eye of the American public today, including issues of race and religion. Investigators believe the pages were created in an attempt to foster “deepening racial and social divisions” throughout the American society.
- Facebook is reporting sales for $100,000 worth of political ads linked to Russia on their platform, but they are far from the only platform to be targeted. Search engine giant Google also found connections between Russia and up to $100,000 USD worth of advertising on YouTube, Gmail and Google Search.
- Social media giant Facebook released a statement announcing the tool on Tuesday. “It is important that people understand how foreign actors tried to sow division and mistrust using Facebook before and after the 2016 US election. That’s why as we have discovered information, we have continually come forward to share it publicly, and have provided it to congressional investigators.” They also handed up to 3,000 ads over to Congress for further investigation.
- Internet security experts and their supporters are calling the move bold because the tool will effectively identify exactly how, when, and why Americans were duped, including such content as news articles, pictures, memes, direct false claims, and advertisements. In their view, it is the best way to let people identify if they’ve been affected.
- Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), who has previously pushed the issue out of concern for the potential fallout before, suggested it was Facebook’s duty to provide such a tool. “Do you not also have an obligation to let those folks know that that was a hoax, that — or at least inform them who was behind that sponsored advertisement.”
- Once the tool launches, Facebook users will be able to log into and browse the content within the tool at their leisure. It wasn’t immediately clear if the content would be removed from the main website at the same time.
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