Facebook has agreed to show voters which Russian propaganda pages or accounts tried to influence them during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
According to Bloomberg, a new online tool will appear by the end of the year in Facebook’s support center. It will allow users to view the content they’ve followed or “liked” on the social network that was created by the Internet Research Agency. That’s the Russian troll farm that created thousands of incendiary posts — seeking to divide American voters — from fake accounts posing as U.S. citizens.
“It is important that people understand how foreign actors tried to sow division and mistrust using Facebook before and after the 2016 U.S. election,” the company said in the post.
Facebook is finally responding to a request from Congress to address manipulation and meddling during the 2016 presidential election.
It’s Facebook’s most upfront effort to explain to users how they may have been affected by the IRA’s postings, which reached an estimated 150 million people.
Key lawmakers on Capitol Hill hope that Google and Twitter will follow Facebook’s lead, as concerns about future Russian cyberwars grow.
Executives from all three Internet giants antagonized members of Congress last month when their testimony on Capitol Hill tried to downplay the social media firms’ cognizance of the massive Russian disinformation campaign in 2016.
The posts and ads, CBS News reported, were aimed at stiringing up controversy over gun rights, immigration, race relations and religion in the U.S., sometimes prompting protests, on both sides of the debate, that were sparked by nothing more than a Kremlin strategy.
Some of the Russian ads surreptitiously promoted black rights groups like Black Lives Matter in a threatening manner, while others tried to aggravate religious divides related to American Muslims. According to intelligence officials, many of the fake news posts were aimed at crippling Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Over the past several months, Facebook, Twitter and Google have faced heavy, bipartisan criticism in Congress for allowing Russian propaganda, in the form of phony posts and advertising, to manipulate the companies’ process of presenting information to the public.
Very late in the game, just a few weeks before the election, The Wall Street Journal has reported that Facebook quietly shut down 5.8 million fake accounts in the United States.
Beyond Russia’s IRA troll farm, numerous nefarious freelancers with suspected ties to the Kremlin also engaged in fake news posts online throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.
The Trump administration’s Justice Department, with the help of U.S. intelligence agencies, earlier this month required two Russian, state-owned news outlets that operate within the U.S. – Sputnik and RT – to register as “foreign agents.”
That means they must register with the Justice Department in the same manner that foreign lobbyist must, and all of their content will be labeled by the administration as propaganda from Moscow.
Both English-language news organizations were accused of disseminating fake news on social media during last year’s campaign season.
Back in September, as the scope of the Russian distortion campaign became clearer, the top Democrat on House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said the Russian ads weren’t only “to help Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but more fundamentally, to divide Americans, to pit one American against another on some very divisive issues.”
It was, he added, in a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin, “the kind of cynical campaign you would expect of having a KGB operative running a country.”