Nov. 23--Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed the burgeoning claim that Russian-backed propaganda on the popular social-media platform played a role in Donald Trump's shock victory over Hillary Clinton.
"Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook ... influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea," he said.
Since then, revelations from multiple investigations into Russia's attempts to influence the U.S. election have led Zuckerberg to change his tune. As a result, Facebook is now planning to release a tool through which users can find out if they personally were influenced by Russian "fake news" during the campaign.
"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," the company said in a statement.
The tool, expected to be available by the end of the year, will allow people to determine if they liked content or followed Facebook and Instagram accounts by the Kremlin-sponsored Internet Research Agency. The Russian outfit spread often-false propaganda that promoted Trump's candidacy and opposed Clinton's.
Facebook said in October that Russian operatives published about 80,000 posts on the platform between 2015 and 2017, exposing more than 120 million Americans to propaganda that zeroed in on divisive issues such as racial tensions and gun rights.
Facebook's self-serve advertising system produces "hundreds of millions of dollars" from political advertisers, the Associated Press reported earlier this month.
Facebook "fought for years for blanket exemptions from the [Federal Election Commission] from the political advertising disclosure rule," AP points out. Facebook now says it "supports policy measures that promote transparency in online campaign advertising."
-- Douglas Perry
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