Facebook is testing a new Messenger feature that could make it easier to spot direct messages from Russian trolls.
As was first reported by Motherboard, the feature offers useful warnings about sketchy unknown contacts who DM you.
Facebook’s Dalya Browne confirmed the trial to PCMag, stating: “we are testing a new feature that provides people with more context on someone they may not have previously connected with in Messenger. This context will allow them to make a more informed decision about whether or not they’d like to message that individual.”
The warnings could indicate the country where the person’s phone number is registered and whether the person has a similar name as an existing Facebook friend or Messenger contact. That last bit of information may help people determine if the sender is impersonating someone they actually know.
Motherboard posted a screenshot of one of the warnings, which it obtained from Facebook user Erin Gallagher. The warning stated that the sender of a DM saying “Hello” had logged in using a phone number from Russia, recently created their account, was using Messenger without Facebook, and was different from one of her friend’s on the social network with the same name.
This new trial comes after Facebook in April shut down 273 accounts linked to the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency, a notorious Russian “troll farm” which published tens of thousands of divisive political posts during the 2016 presidential election. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in November said he was “dead serious” about stopping Russian Facebook abuse. The following month, the company launched tool that lets you see all the Internet Research Agency-created Facebook pages and Instagram accounts you liked or followed between January 2015 and August 2017.