The New York Times tells us, breathlessly: “Were you a victim of Russian propaganda? Facebook will help you find out.”
Facebook said Wednesday that it plans to roll out a tool to help you figure out if that new page you followed on Facebook or that account you added on Instagram was secretly being run by Russia’s troll army.
Facebook has said that 29 million Americans saw content created by Russian agents directly in their news feed, while 126 million shared posts that were shared or linked to by their friends, with that number rising to roughly 150 million when including Instagram. On Election Day itself, about 10 million people saw ads purchased by the Kremlin on Facebook, the company has said.
Those are, I assume, Facebook’s notoriously inflated “reach” statistics, but the claim as stated doesn’t even make sense. What does “126 million shared posts that were shared or linked to by their friends” mean? That 126 million people shared posts containing Russian propaganda? If that is the claim, it is absurd. 58% of the adult population of the U.S. is said to have a Facebook account, which works out to about 140 million. In my experience, a substantial percentage of those are bots or porn profiles, and a large percentage of those who once created a Facebook profile rarely or never actually go on Facebook.
Perhaps the one good thing that will come of Congress’s hectoring of Facebook is that Facebook’s “reach” numbers will be exposed as the fraud on advertisers that, in my opinion, they are.
Meanwhile, if you really want to know whether you have been influenced by Russian propaganda, just ask yourself two questions: 1) Did you support the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s? 2) Are you opposed to fracking? If you answered either question Yes, you almost certainly have been influenced by covert Russian propaganda.