Facebook Helps Americans Affected by Trolls



    A month ago, Facebook promised to develop tools against fake accounts and news generated by the “troll factory”, the so-called Internet Research Agency.

    Now the social network has kept its promise - and released an appropriate tool available to affected users in the Help Center. With it, you can see which pages or accounts of the “fake generator” the user accidentally like or became a follower on Facebook and Instagram. It is assumed that after learning about the fake nature of these accounts, a person can correct his mistake - and unsubscribe. At least he will know that he was deceived.

    Unfortunately, this means of informing only reports about likes and subscriptions. That is, it helps only a small fraction of those 126 million people who saw the fake posts of the Internet Research Agency on Facebook and Instagram during the US election campaign in 2016 (according to Facebook ). The user could see these messages in his feed if one of his friends liked them.

    As the investigation showed, from January 2015 to August 2017, trolls generated about 80,000 fragments of “organic” content (that is, written by people) on Facebook. About 29 million Americans saw these messages in their feed, and through reposts and likes, they spread to an audience of 126 million Americans.

    The Facebook tool also does not allow you to check whether any of the 3000 advertisements that the Internet Research Agency bought on a social network during the election campaign were shown to a specific user. According to Facebook, they spread to an audience of about 10 million people. Unknown agents in the interests of certain individuals spent more than $ 100,000 on advertising .

    Facebook admits that it is too “difficult” to identify and notify each user who has undergone this kind of propaganda, that is, he has seen content generated or paid by agents.

    Facebook’s actions can be called forced because the social network has been fiercely criticized along with Google and Twitter for failing to counter misinformation by the Internet Research Agency during a hearing before the Senate Legal Committee in October 2017. Especially went to Facebook, which became the main channel of foreign propaganda, reaching 126 million users from the United States. In turn, Google found on YouTube 18 channels related to this kind of misinformation, and search ads for a modest amount of $ 4,700 .

    Twitter has identified 2,700 accounts associated with the “troll factory”. She also compiled a report on bots and misinformationwith an explanation of how the actions on these accounts are automated. The company shared internal information with Congressional investigators who are currently conducting this case.


    The printouts of the accounts created by the Internet Research Agency trolls on Facebook are shown at a House Intelligence Committee hearing. Photo: Shawn Thew / EPA

    At the same time, at the hearing, senators called on these three companies to notify users who could see this propaganda. Facebook has now tried to fulfill the demands of politicians. It can be assumed that Google and Twitter should also somehow react and try to partially make amends. But Google earlier in the letter notifiedDemocrat Senator Richard Blumenthal that he cannot notify all YouTube users who have watched videos from dubious sources, because "the content is available for viewing regardless of whether the user is logged in or not." According to Google, this means that in this way "it is impossible to identify everyone who watched a particular video."

    Facebook, Google, and Twitter promised congressmen to look more carefully at political advertising so that the story doesn’t happen again. Google has promised to launch a special database of political advertising and introduce verification that all buyers of such ads are US residents.

    The Internet Research Agency is a Russian company headquartered in St. Petersburg. howAccording to media reports , it is engaged in influencing public opinion in the interests of the Russian government. Employees of the company distribute posts and comments in social networks and the media in order to form a certain public opinion. The company has been operating for several years.

    A significant part of the content generated by paid “trolls” on Facebook and Instagram is aimed at inciting social and political unrest around such controversial topics as the rights of sexual minorities (LGBT), racial and religious issues.

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