One week after Twitter released the entirety of the material the company had connected to Russia’s social media interference efforts — including text, photos, and videos — Facebook has shown no signs of following suit.
Facebook has been notoriously coy about foreign social media interference efforts on its platform, particularly when it comes to revealing the names and content of the accounts identified.
And while the company announced that it removed hundreds of fake Russian pages and accounts — as well as hundreds of pages and accounts connected to a separate disinformation campaign out of Iran — it has never publicly revealed the names of all of these accounts, nor how many people followed each page, nor even which posts on specific pages were the most popular.
When asked whether Facebook intended to follow Twitter’s lead in releasing the details of the fake accounts it had thus far traced back to the Russian Internet Research Agency, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone was evasive.
“We’ve shared last year all of the [Russian] material we identified with relevant Congressional committees,” Stone told ThinkProgress via email. Stone added that all of the related Facebook advertisements the Russian campaign purchased have already been publicly released.
Stone did not respond to follow-up questions from ThinkProgress.
The response reflects how Facebook has managed public disclosures pertaining to foreign efforts to manipulate the company’s massive platform. Instead of releasing all of the names of the pages and accounts removed, Facebook has forced journalists and researchers to comb through the digital detritus of the pages and accounts captured by things like the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
As Stone said, the related Russian ads have been published. But those ads were only one part of a much larger campaign of social media interference — in some cases, fake Russian pages were able to amass hundreds of thousands of followers each. And while Facebook has alerted users who followed the fake pages, the company did not share what the pages actually looked like, such that users can be aware of what to potentially look for as the 2018 midterms elections draw closer.
At long last, appears that Facebook is finally taking a proactive approach to letting users know they followed fake Russian pages. This just showed up in my News Feed: pic.twitter.com/pjy1h4uzP1
— Casey Michel 🇰🇿 (@cjcmichel) January 29, 2018
Thanks to Twitter’s release last week, the public is more aware of the messages and strategies employed by foreign social media operations, including how fake Russian accounts on Twitter inflamed debates around the NFL player protests, and how a fake Iranian site helped spark a nuclear warning between Pakistan and Israel. Not only did the revelations illustrate the scope of the social media manipulation efforts, but they also helped highlight how the platform can be used and abused — which could help users identify similar efforts in the future.
Facebook’s continued refusal to release details about the fake Russian pages and accounts — names, follower count, content — follows a string of alarming revelations about the company and its treatment of user data since 2017. From massive security breaches to controversial data leaks, to even revealing this month that Russian firms had used Facebook to augment their facial-recognition programs, the company has taken an unprecedented reputational beating over the past 15 months.
With last week’s release, Twitter has taken a clear lead in efforts at transparency — a direction Facebook, for reasons that are still unexplained, has refused to follow.