We already knew the Russian misinformation campaign on Facebook reached millions of Americans, but we didn't know it reached more than a third of the country
Facebook revealed last night that Russian content reached 126 million Americans on their platform. And like all other forms of content on Facebook and other social media platforms, this was propagated by users and algorithms that are designed to spread content.
Underscoring how widely content on the social media platform can spread, Facebook says in the testimony that while some 29 million Americans directly received material from 80,000 posts by 120 fake Russian-backed pages in their own news feeds, those posts were “shared, liked and followed by people on Facebook, and, as a result, three times more people may have been exposed to a story that originated from the Russian operation.”
Platforms like Facebook are free because the platform isn't the product; users are the product. Social media platforms make money by selling advertisements and access to their data.
Depending on your point of view you may say the business model of social media is benign, but what happens when a foreign adversary hijacks the model to spread misinformation?
What happens is the 2016 election. Facebook has announced a new policy that will label advertisements so users will know where they're coming from, but that policy will have to be rigorously enforced. Moreover, the company will have to be more diligent in identifying fake accounts.
Once those steps are taken, there will still be an unfortunate number of Americans who will knowingly and willingly share content produced by foreign agitators. You know, as long as it says something bad about the Clintons or other Democrats.