Facebook To Require Identity Verification For Political Advertisers

In a move aimed at combating foreign interference in elections, Facebook will require political advertisers to confirm their identity and location.

The rules will apply to political ads that reference particular candidates, as well as "issue" ads. The social networking service will label the ads and require disclosure of who paid for them, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Friday in a blog post.

"These steps by themselves won't stop all people trying to game the system. But they will make it a lot harder for anyone to do what the Russians did during the 2016 election and use fake accounts and pages to run ads," Zuckerberg writes.

Facebook also will require verification for people who manage pages will large numbers of followers. "This will make it much harder for people to run pages using fake accounts, or to grow virally and spread misinformation or divisive content that way," Zuckerberg writes.

He adds that the company also has created a tool to enable people to see all the ads a particular page is running, and a searchable archive of past political ads.



The move comes in advance of Zuckerberg's appearance next week on Capitol Hill, where he is expected to face critical questions about a host of issues ranging from the company's privacy practices to its role in the last election to revelations that President Trump's consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, obtained personal data about as many as 87 million users of the social networking service.

Earlier this week, Zuckerberg admitted that the company "didn't do enough" to prevent abuse of its platform. "That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, hate speech, in addition to developers and data privacy. We didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is, and that was a huge mistake," he told reporters Wednesday.

Facebook has acknowledged that its platform was used by Russian operatives who spread propaganda during the last presidential election. At least 3,000 ads linked to Russian accounts ran during the 2016 election cycle; those ads may have reached at least 146 million Facebook and Instagram users.

Some of the ads favored particular candidates, but many simply sought to spread divisive messages.

One ad, released last year by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, called Hillary Clinton "a Satan."

Another read: "Kick Sharia out of America!"

The new verification procedure, which will roll out in the U.S. before being extended to other countries, will require page administrators and ad account administrators to submit a government-issued ID and provide a mailing address. Facebook plans to then mail letters with unique access codes to that address.

Zuckerberg also said Wednesday that the company supports the Honest Ads Act -- a bill introduced by Senators Mark Warner (D-Virginia), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and John McCain (R-Arizona) -- which would require digital platforms with at least 50 million monthly viewers to maintain publicly available copies of political ads purchased by groups spending more than a total of $500. The web platforms also would have to maintain public records about the target audience, number of views, rates charged, and dates and times of publication.

Warner called Facebook's new moves "important," noting that many of the Russian-linked ads on the site before the 2016 election focused on issues, as opposed to the candidates.

"I would encourage all of the platform companies to follow suit as we work toward making the Honest Ads Act the law of the land, ensuring that political ads sold online abide by the same disclosure rules as TV and radio ads," he stated.

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