Facebook has announced its intention to adopt the 1800s snail mail system to verify ad buyers’ identities. Practically, the social media tech giant will be sending postcards to ad buyers in a bid to arrest foreign actors from manipulating audience deceitfully during US elections.
According to Reuters, the efforts by Facebook to adopt postcard verification is a measure to sideline criticism from security experts, election integrity watchdog groups and lawmakers that Facebook and other social media platforms had responded poorly to their use by Russian mercenaries in spreading conflict-ridden political content and misleading information during the U.S. presidential election in 2016.
Facebook’s global director of policy programs, Katie Harbath told Routers that the verification system will be implemented before the Congressional midterm elections in November but was not specific on when the program would begin. The idea is to send code-bearing postcards to individuals buying ads that mention a candidate running for a federal office as a means of verification. “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 in the National Association of Secretaries of State conference at the weekend.
This verification method is similar to those used by Google for those joining closed neighborhood groups and in business owner’s verification referred to as Nextdoor and My Business respectively.
However, Harbath said, “It won’t solve everything,” in an interview with Reuters but admitted that snail mail is the most effective means they have yet arrived at to stop Russians and other actors from buying ads as someone they are not.
The program was announced by Facebook a day after Robert Mueller of the U.S. Special Counsel released indictments accusing sixteen Russian mercenaries; thirteen citizens and three companies of interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election using various mediums including fake social media accounts, and as a result, increased winning chances for the Republican Donald Trump while denting that of the Democratic Hillary Clinton.
The U.S. law forbids foreign nationals from contributing money or anything for any local, state or federal election in the U.S. The accusation released by Mueller last week unveiled full details on how fake online accounts were used to generate conflict-ridden political content during the last U.S. election. More information also alleged how Russians impose pro-Trump activities and political rallies on real Americans while pretending to be Americans.
Facebook has previously released information to the Congress that “Russian-linked ads may be as many as 10 million users in the U.S., while the posts from Russian agents were believed be as many as 126 million Americans,” according to TechCrunch.
“We shared Russian ads with Congress, Mueller and the American people to help the public understand how the Russians abused our system. Still, there are keys facts about the Russian actions that are still not well understood.” The vice president of Facebook ads, Rob Goldman wrote after Mueller indictment.