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Now that Facebook has acquiesced to the demands of US Congress and handed over its data, the company is focussing on helping those who were tricked by Russian propaganda in the first place.
By the end of the year, a tool on Facebook’s Help Centre will allow users to see which pages they liked or followed between January 2016 and August 2017 are run by Internet Research Agency, a known Russian troll factory. The results will include Instagram accounts.
The tool will mark the first step the company takes to actively help the individuals misled during the US 2016 elections. So far, it has been focussing on cleaning the platform of propaganda pages with back-end algorithms, and working on features that alert users to possible propaganda or “fake news”.
“It is important that people understand how foreign actors tried to sow division and mistrust using Facebook before and after the 2016 US election,” the company wrote in a release Wednesday.
In written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism in October, Facebook estimated that 29 million users had been served content directly from the Internet Research Agency, and some 126 million users may have been exposed after friends shared, liked, or commented on the content.
The true number is uncertain, though, as Facebook has no way of knowing if a user looked at a post and, if they did, for how long. All it can definitively say is that a post was served to their News Feed on a given day.
During the US election, Russian troll factories used Facebook to sow division among partisan lines and influence the US election. This has been confirmed under oath by former FBI director James Comey, and representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google.