A couple of months back Facebook was caught in a controversy when Federal prosecutors alleged that a Kremlin-linked, pro-Donald Trump Russian operation called the Internet Research Agency tried to flood the US with disinformation and propaganda before the 2016 elections. In order to stay out of trouble, the social media network company announced that it will verify the identities of people who buy election-related ads by sending postcards.
Per Reuters, Facebook says the process will involve any advertising that mentions a specific candidate, but not general issue-based ads:
“The process of using postcards containing a specific code will be required for advertising that mentions a specific candidate running for a federal office,” said Katie Harbath, Facebook’s Global Director of Policy Programs.” The requirement will not apply to issue-based political ads. It won’t solve everything. But sending codes through old-fashioned mail was the most effective method the tech company could come up with to prevent Russians and other bad actors from purchasing ads while posing as someone else.”
“If you run an ad mentioning a candidate, we are going to mail you a postcard and you will have to use that code to prove you are in the United States,” Harbath said at a weekend conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State.
Facebook revealed these plans a day after U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller unsealed an indictment that accused 13 Russians and 3 Russian companies of conducting a conspiracy using social media to interfere in the election, by boosting Republican Donald Trump and denigrating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. This indictment, which was released on Friday, laid out in detail how the Russians adopted false online personas to push divisive political content, including ads. The Russians also allegedly posed as Americans to stage political rallies in the United States and persuade real Americans to engage in pro-Trump activities.
Neither Harbath nor the company revealed plans as to when Facebook would begin relying on postcard codes, but said they would be in use before this year’s mid-term congressional elections that are to be held in November.