Facebook users can verify their ID using a two-factor authentication with a texted code, but to verify the identity of political advertisers in the U.S., Facebook will soon be resorting to a more old-school method: snail mail. Over the weekend, Facebook said that advertisers taking out an ad that mentions a candidate by name will be required to type in a code off a postcard sent in the mail to verify that they are located in the U.S.
Facebook’s Global Director of Policy Programs Katie Harbath said that the change “won’t solve everything” but will serve as one of the social network’s new political ad requirements in the wake of Russian-bought ads during the 2016 presidential election. By sending the postcard through the mail rather than electronically, Facebook is hoping the extra step will help confirm that the advertiser is, in fact, located in the U.S.
Facebook says the changes will roll out before the next midterm elections in the U.S., slated for November. The postcard verification will only be required for ads supporting a federal candidate, not ads related to a political issue, Facebook said.
According to Reuters, lawmakers, security experts, and others have criticized the platform’s failure to detect the fraud along with claiming the platform was slow to respond.
The announcement comes after official charges were brought against 13 Russian nationals and three businesses for conspiracy, identify theft, and other related charges. The charges say that the individuals and groups pretended to be Americans while sharing both native posts and ads across multiple social media networks. The latest announcement is designed to verify that the person paying for the ad lives in the U.S.
The postcard access code isn’t fail-proof but joins a list of measures Facebook is taking to reduce political ad fraud. The plans also include enhancing transparency by labeling political ads and showing users who paid for the ad. The “view ads” link will also show users the other ads taken out by the same Page and whether or not those ads were targeted toward a specific demographic. Facebook also says it is building machine-learning software designed to confirm an advertiser’s identity and location.
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