Facebook is building out a tool to show which Facebook Pages or Instagram accounts associated with Russia’s Internet Research Agency election troll farm you Liked or followed. Launching by the end of the year as part of the Facebook Help Center, the tool will show a list of all the IRA accounts you followed.
The IRA is a group based in St. Petersburg, Russia with ties to the Kremlin. It’s been exposed as an office organizing purposeful disinformation campaigns to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election by sowing division in the country. Facebook is now on a mission to thwart future election meddling, and be as transparent as possible about previous election interference.
However, this tool will not show whether you saw ads or organic posts from the Russian troll accounts. That’s important, because paid reach and reshared posts by other users are how many of the 146 million Facebook and Instagram users encountered election interference content. Facebook has said 29 million Americans saw Russian troll content directly shared to their feeds, but 126 million total saw posts including reshares, with 10 million seeing ads. Twenty million Americans saw a combination of Russian troll ads and direct posts on Instagram.
Providing a list of all the individual Russian interference posts a user saw or interacted with could be more useful. At the very least, this new tool could list accounts whose content users saw or clicked, even if they didn’t follow the account that created it. But Facebook has contended it would be technically difficult to dredge up all that information. During the Senate hearing on election interference, Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch said “It’s a much more challenging issue to identify and notify reliably people who may have been exposed to this content on an individual basis.”
Congress gave Facebook, Google and Twitter until today to detail plans for improved transparency around election interference, so we’ll see if Google and Twitter come out with their own disclosures.