As part of its ongoing effort to clean up its reputation, Facebook will soon start using old-school paper postcards to verify the location of anyone buying ads related to US elections.
The postcards will include a unique code, which advertisers will need in order to prove they are in the country. The codes will be necessary for anyone who wants to place an ad mentioning a candidate running for Congress.
It’s illegal for foreign nationals to donate or spend money in connection with federal, state or local elections in the United States.
Katie Habarth, Facebook’s global director of policy programs, told Reuters the postcards “won’t solve everything”, but were the best method for preventing such meddling in future.
Late last year, Facebook identified at least 470 fake pages and accounts, which had spent a total of US$100,000 on ads. In a statement, the company said the accounts were linked to one another and probably originated in Russia.
These ads didn’t mention particular candidates, and therefore wouldn’t be covered by the new verification system, but Facebook concluded that they were meant to spread divisive messages on sensitive topics such as gun rights.
Facebook expects the new system to be in place before the mid-term Congressional elections in September, but hasn’t mentioned electoral ads in any other countries.
The announcement comes a month after Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that political interference was a real problem on the network, and made a commitment to tackling it.
“The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot to do,” Zuckerberg said. “Whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.”