Facebook will start verifying the identities of some ad buyers via traditional mail, primarily in order to avoid another situation in which its social media network is abused for the purposes of spreading politically motivated misinformation, a company official said this weekend. While speaking at a recent conference organized by the National Association of Secretaries of State, Facebook's global policy programs chief Katie Harbath said the company is planning to start using postcards to authenticate individuals seeking to purchase election-related advertising in the United States. The verification method will only be used in the United States and won't be employed for political ads that are issue-based, Ms. Harbath said.
The postcards Facebook is planning to send via U.S. mail will contain a unique code advertisers will have to input into the social network's marketing platform after they attempt to purchase ads that promote any individual candidate running for federal office. State-level elections initially won't require the same authentication method, the executive implied. Ms. Harbath admitted the mechanism won't be able to solve every related issue but should at the very least prevent the vast majority of foreign agents posing as someone else from purchasing political ads in the United States. Foreign donations meant to contribute to one's run for any government office are illegal in the U.S. The newly announced solution will be put in place before this year's congressional mid-terms scheduled to take place in November.
The move comes shortly after U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller publicized a previously sealed indictment seeking action against three Russian companies and thirteen Russian nationals over espionage and a criminal conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 presidential election with the goal of assisting then-candidate Donald Trump win the run for the highest office in the country. The issue of the so-called "fake news" has been widely reported about following the outcome of the election, with the likes of Facebook, Google, and Twitter facing significant pressure from Washington to police their platforms more aggressively and prevent foreign powers from easily meddling in U.S. affairs going forward. Facebook has recently been expanding its content review teams meant to help fight the spread of misinformation on the social network but its efforts are still yielding limited success, according to its own statements.