Facebook and The Internet Research Agency
Back in early October, Facebook announced that they were going to be making it easier for users to see how Pages were using adverts on the platform, informing us of a brand’s intention and motivation.
Last week, Facebook posted an update, following on from this news, to say they were further increasing “the transparency of advertising on Facebook”.
Facebook will be creating a portal, which should be accessible by the end of the year, allowing users to learn which pages from the Internet Research Agency (posted on Facebook and Instagram) they liked or followed between January 2015 and August 2017.
What is the Internet Research Agency?
Chances are you won’t be very familiar with the Internet Research Agency. It sounds very official doesn’t it, but also very vague? What exactly does this agency do and where are they based?
The Internet Research Agency (IRA) is based in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in an otherwise ordinary looking building. It’s the home of Russian trolls, supposedly working for the government to influence the public via social media.
In a report by The New York Times, it was revealed that employees would turn up “switch on an Internet Proxy service” and then work through a “constant stream of ‘technical tasks’” which would include the likes of writing numerous political posts and hundreds of comments each day, all with the intention of swinging public opinion.
In short, the IRA is a modern propaganda machine.
I strongly advise you go and read that report because it is truly eye opening as to what happened there.
What does this mean for the average user?
That’s a tricky one. Facebook themselves have stated that this update will allow people to “understand how foreign actors tried to sow division and mistrust using Facebook before and after the 2016 US election”, however, how many average users will actually go back and look this up? It’s great that this data is being made available, but if you discover you were heavily influenced by these fake pages and accounts, what are you supposed to do next? Disregard it all, go back and unlike the pages? Do people actually have time to do this now, or should we already be looking ahead to ensure this doesn’t happen again?
Something tells me that those who were influenced by these pages won’t be looking back at the data, and won’t be one to believe they were manipulated during that time period.