Facebook tool to allow users check if they interacted with Russian 'professional trolls'

The social network says it is important people know how "foreign actors tried to sow division and mistrust"

Facebook tool to allow users check if they interacted with Russian 'professional trolls'

Picture by: Jaap Arriens/SIPA USA/PA Images

Facebook has said it will release a tool that will allow users to check if they interacted with an account created by Russia's so-called 'troll army'.

The company is making moves to highlight accounts created by the Internet Research Agency - an organisation based in St Petersburg that has close ties to the Russian government.

The Internet Research Agency has been described as a 'troll farm', with the New York Times writing in 2015: "The agency had become known for employing hundreds of Russians to post pro-Kremlin propaganda online under fake identities [...] in order to create the illusion of a massive army of supporters."

Concerns about such Russian government-linked agencies have intensified in the wake of alleged Russian interference in last year's US election, with claims that fake social media accounts were heavily responsible for helping spread misinformation and false stories.

US intelligence agencies have said: "The likely financier of the so-called Internet Research Agency of professional trolls [...] is a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence."

Last month, Facebook revealed that people in Russia had published thousands of posts via Facebook that were seen by up to 126 million Americans before and after Donald Trump's election win - with millions more Instagram users having also seen similar content.

In their latest statement, Facebook explained: "We will soon be creating a portal to enable people on Facebook to learn which of the Internet Research Agency Facebook Pages or Instagram accounts they may have liked or followed between January 2015 and August 2017."

The new tool will be available by the end of the year.

Facebook added: "It is important that people understand how foreign actors tried to sow division and mistrust using Facebook before and after the 2016 US election.

"That’s why as we have discovered information, we have continually come forward to share it publicly and have provided it to congressional investigators. And it’s also why we’re building the tool we are announcing today."

It's the latest move by a major technology company against Russian organisations, with Twitter having recently banned ads from Russian state media outlets RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik.