At the moment, Facebook is testing a new feature for Messenger that will be able to identify suspicious accounts that send unwarranted direct messages, and this feature will also indicate the account’s country of origin by phone number and whether it was created recently. Our sources who gave us this tip got a screenshot of the test from multimedia artist Erin Gallagher after which Facebook confirmed that it was running tests on the feature however, a spokesperson of Facebook, Dalya Browne said it is for now, a “small test”.
Although it appears as if the feature is aimed at fighting scams and unsolicited messages from accounts that are using fake identities, there exists a component of fighting growing misinformation and bots from countries like Russia by Facebook. According to the screenshot our sources were provided with, the feature is able to notify a user when a message that is totally uncalled for, is sent from a Messenger account that is not paired with an official Facebook account and when that account is tied to a Russian phone number. The screenshot shows that Facebook will list the account as “recently created”. Russia is without doubt, Facebook’s main adversary in the fight against misinformation and fake news, much of which is spread on the social network using fake accounts pretending to be American citizens.
Facebook is still handling the repercussions of the massive misinformation campaign conducted in the run up to, during, and after the 2016 presidential election which was sponsored by Russia. Facebook is also still suspending accounts that are connected to the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-tied propaganda outfit that is aimed at growing disinformation and distrust among citizens of the United States as a result of fake news, pages, accounts, and comments on US social networking sites. The company is now also working with researchers to measure the impact of fake news on democratic elections and the all-encompassing effect of misinformation in the News Feed.
Facebook launched a literacy campaign in May to educate people about misinformation and how to stop the spread of fake news.