- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 23, 2017

Facebook has rolled out a feature that lets users see if they followed any of the accounts and pages linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll farm” that use the platform to propagate fake news articles and other disinformation viewed by as many as 140 million account holders during the last few years.

As of Dec. 22, Facebook users can check to see if they followed any of the suspicious Russian accounts by logging-on and then accessing a tool available through the site’s “Help Center.” The feature quickly checks the user’s profile against a list of Internet Research Agency pages and then displays whether a person previously “liked” or “followed” any of the troll accounts.

The feature also gives users the option of checking whether they followed any of the Internet Research Agency’s account on Instagram, a Facebook-owned photo-posting app that boasts hundreds of millions of active monthly users.

Russian trolls exploited social media platforms during the 2016 U.S. presidential election in connection with a state-sponsored influence campaign meant to muddy last year’s White House race, U.S. intelligence officials previously concluded. Facebook ultimately linked the Internet Research Agency to some 80,000 posts published between 2015 and 2017, including more than 3,000 ads addressing various social and political issues.

“We are taking action to be more transparent about the foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. Elections. We’ve taken down fake accounts and Pages by the Internet Research Agency and have shared this information with Congress,” Facebook said Friday.

Roughly 140 million Facebook users viewed Internet Research Agency content at one point or another, according to the company. Only a fraction of them can use the social network’s new tool, however, since it only shows accounts and pages that a user specifically “liked” or “followed,” meaning the feature doesn’t consider any suspicious content subsequently shared or re-posted by legitimate users.

“It is important that people understand how foreign actors tried to sow division and mistrust using Facebook before and after the 2016 U.S. election,” Facebook said previously.

Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized his government to meddle in the 2016 White House race in hopes of sowing discord and disrupting the campaign of Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

“Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries and paid social media users or ‘trolls,’” the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded in a January assessment.

“The likely financier of the so-called Internet Research Agency of professional trolls located in Saint Petersburg is a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence,” the report said.

Russia has denied meddling in Mr. Trump’s election.

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