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Facebook will tell you if you got duped by fake Russian accounts

Facebook illustration (Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Sipa USA)
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Facebook says it’s creating an online tool that will show you if you liked or followed fake Russian accounts spreading disinformation during the 2016 presidential election on Facebook or Instagram.

The new tool, which Facebook says will be available through its “Help Center” by the end of the year, will mark the first time that Facebook users will be able to find out if they were duped by accounts associated with the Russian Internet Research Agency.

Nearly 150 million Facebook and Instagram users may have seen paid ads and organic posts distributed by the Kremlin-linked organization in St. Petersburg.

The new Facebook tool will let you see if pages or accounts you liked or followed between January 2015 and August 2017 were created by the Internet Research Agency which tried to sow discord with posts and ads on race, religion, gun rights, gay rights, immigration and other hot-button issues. Some of the pages and accounts promoted the candidacy of Donald Trump and criticized his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton.

But the tool has a significant limitation. It can’t tell you if you are one of the people who saw this content because friends shared it in your news feed.

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Also, the tool will not show you the content posted by the accounts or pages, only a list of the content. Facebook has left it up to Congress to release the ads bought by the Internet Research Agency.

Democratic lawmakers have called on Facebook to inform users whether they were exposed to the Russian disinformation campaign.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote letters to Facebook, Google and Twitter asking for them to alert consumers if they saw the content and ads. He had requested a response by Wednesday. Google and Twitter declined to comment.

“During our open hearing with Facebook, Twitter and Google earlier this month, we asked them to notify their users if they had been targeted by or seen content as part of the Russian active measures campaign. The move by Facebook to allow users to see if they liked or followed pages created by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency is a very positive step,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement. “We look forward to additional steps by the companies to improve transparency with respect to Russian abuse of their platforms.”

During congressional hearings, Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch said it was a challenging issue “to identify and notify reliably people who may have been exposed to this content on an individual basis.”

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© 2017 USA Today

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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