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Oscar Williams

News editor

Facebook promises to tell users if they liked pages created by Russian agents

Facebook has pledged to start notifying users who liked pages created by Russian agents hoping to sow discord around major political events.

The social network said the portal, which works across Facebook and Instagram, will go live by the end of the year and boost the transparency of advertising across its sites.

It has been designed to flag up Facebook pages or Instagram accounts created by the Internet Research Agency, a firm that spreads propaganda on behalf of the Russian government.

“It is important that people understand how foreign actors tried to sow division and mistrust using Facebook before and after the 2016 US election,” the social network said in a blog.

“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.”

Facebook has recently come under fire for its handling of disinformation. It emerged last month that 150 million of its users had seen content from the Internet Research Agency about last year’s US election.

 

Pressure is mounting on the firm to hand over any evidence of Russian meddling in last year’s Brexit referendum.

Speaking in a cyber security debate in the House of Commons yesterday, digital minister Matt Hancock said the government should be given the opportunity to scrutinise any relevant material.

“This is an incredibly important issue and the [digital, culture, media and sport] select committee is taking a lead to ensure that evidence is brought to light. We will of course investigate all the evidence we see and take action where appropriate.”

Facebook’s EMEA chief Nicola Mendelsohn told Sky News earlier this week that the firm had seen no evidence that Russia had used the platform to interfere in the Brexit referendum. But the social network’s press officers appeared to contradict that message in a statement to BuzzFeed.

“To date, we have not observed that the known, coordinated clusters in Russia engaged in significant coordination of ad buys or political misinformation targeting the Brexit vote,” a spokesperson said.