Literacy and Detection
The first thing is always to <<PAUSE>> before sharing content on social media. Disinformation is designed to target the emotions, get us riled up, make us feel righteous. But instead of sharing, take a moment. Take a second look and ask whether it's possible that what you're seeing is disinformation, propagated by a troll? If so, do you still want to share it?
How can you tell if something is disinformation or if a troll is behind it?
There are a number of Twitter bot checking tools that you can add to your browser. Two of the most widely used are:
Botcheck - This is a plugin for Chrome browsers. Adding Botcheck allows you to check the likelihood that an account is a bot when you are on Twitter
Bot Sentinel - - Bot Sentinel is both a browser plugin and a service that analyzes real-time bot activity on Twitter. The dashboard presents statistics the describe bot activity, such as trends in keywords.
Other things you can do if you suspect an account is fake is:
Check the account's bio. Is there a photo or is it an egg-head or anonymous silhouette?
If it's an image, download it and do a reverse search of the picture. Does it exist in many other places, including image libraries or ads?
Does the account post constantly, throughout the day at an unnatural rate? Is the profile only active during major events?
Spotting Fake Facebook content
Take this New York Times Spot Fake Facebook Quiz and learn to distinguish the differences between real and fake Facebook content.
If you're on Facebook and you suspect an account is falsified, then you can report it. Here are Facebook's instructions for reporting fake accounts.
Facebook has created a tool on this page "How can I see if I've liked or followed a Facebook Page or Instagram account created by the Internet Research Agency?" to detect if you unwittingly shared content created by the IRA. You need to be logged into Facebook for this to work. The same tool also works for checking Instagram.
Unfortunately, there aren't the same types of bot-detector tools for Facebook as there are for Twitter. The best prevention is literacy, looking for warning signs and not sharing any content that might be disinformation, no matter how tempting.
Bear in mind that the purpose of disinformation is to divide. It can masquerade as the right or the left. Here is an example of IRA-posted content from 2017:
And yes, the IRA and similar disinformation groups use tools such as Paypal to pay US citizens for services such as onsite event planning and coordination. Unsuspecting Americans end up on the Russian payroll and working on behalf of Russia.
Facebook, which also owns Instagram, has a long way to go in improving how it responds to disinformation. Facebook has recently received this open letter from Mozilla, Access Now, Reporters without Borders and 35 other organizations asking them to be more proactive. Facebook makes billions off of its platform. It needs to invest more in safeguarding its user community.