Facebook just released a feature that reportedly shows if you were duped by Russian trolls accused of spreading propaganda and discord during the 2016 presidential election. The new tool is available through its Help Center.
As many as 150 million Facebook users have interacted with content from the “Internet Research Agency,” an alleged Russian organization that bought ads and created posts about social and political issues between 2015 and 2017, according to Facebook. About 3,000 of the ads are now evidence in federal investigations on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Lawmakers have grilled Facebook execs on how Russia was apparently able to target Americans and create divisiveness and discord among different groups. It happened through the social media giant’s “multi-billion dollar digital advertising business” that allows marketers to target ads based on “location, demographics, behavior and interests — all information that Facebook collects each time someone logs in,” U.S. News & World Report noted.
Among the topics that seared users’ emotions were race, religion and LGBT rights, reported Recode.net, a website affiliated with TheVerge and Vox Media.
“Facebook is designed to amplify messages that are extreme and emotional and that’s exactly what’s happened. Facebook is designed to allow people to send messages to a lot of people for very little money and that’s exactly what’s happened,” Siva Vaidhyanathan, professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and author of Antisocial Media, an upcoming book on Facebook, told USA Today in November.
“Combine the two and it’s a perfect propaganda machine for anyone who wants to distract or disrupt a democratic republic,” said Vaidhyanathan.
So, what is the solution?
Facebook is planning to beef up its enforcement arm by hiring a total of 10,000 more ad reviewers, engineers and security experts tasked with removing content violations and fake accounts. Additionally, ads will be blocked from pages that consistently share stories that third-party fact-checking organizations say are false. The so-called fake news policy has also faced harsh criticism. Facebook has been accused of routinely ignoring truly offensive content while removing or banning content deemed as politically incorrect. That includes conservative news.
New advertising tools will make it more obvious who is paying for political ads, according to Facebook. One of them allows users to click on links to see all of the ads a page is running. People buying U.S. election ads will also be required to confirm their identity.
New measures are also going into place to avoid the posting of “click bait,” content designed primarily to direct people to a website.