As a team of advertising specialists and data analysts, we've been following with professional interest this week's Congressional inquiries into how Russian operatives used social media to influence the 2016 election.
These junk posts dilute the efforts of credible businesses to advertise their goods and services to people who have a legitimate interest in them. They're un-American in numerous ways, and we don't like it!
Here are some quick tips for recognizing a questionable Facebook post:
1. The post comes from an organization that doesn't appear to exist outside of Facebook. It may have a name like "Born Liberal" or "Being Patriotic" whose purpose would seem to connect people with common interests on the internet but whose real-life activities you might find hard to imagine. (What would happen at a meeting of the "Born Liberal" organization? What would this group actually DO? Are they a business that sells something?) If the Facebook post comes from a group with a vague-sounding name like this, question it. If you're unsure, do a Google search. (By the way: "Born Liberal" and "Being Patriotic" are both Russian-created groups designed to manipulate Americans.)
2. The image or artwork on the post is bad, blurry, or cheesy. It may look sort of generic or like it's come from a stock art collection.
3. The post itself has odd syntax, grammar mistakes, or misspellings.
4. The post has the word "Sponsored" on it. That means someone paid to increase the chances you would see it. (Just because a post is sponsored doesn't mean it was sponsored by a hostile entity. Legitimate companies and non-profits purchase Facebook ads all the time, as well as pay to "boost" their posts to ensure more people see them.)
5. The post contains "facts" that you are unable to verify with a simple Google search.
6. The post references an event that doesn't seem to be promoted anywhere else on the internet, including on community calendars.
7. The post attributes quotes to people it doesn't name.
Please look through your "Liked Pages" on your own Facebook profile and delete anything that looks suspicious. Be more aware of what you comment on, like, and share. Educate your family and friends on digital media literacy.
Here are images and targeting details of a handful of Russian-backed ads for reference, compiled by Politico.