Facebook will use postcards to verify identity of ad buyers in wake of Russia meddling claims

Jeremy B White
Facebook has faced calls to tighten its political advertising rules: REUTERS/Toby Melville

Facebook plans to begin mailing postcards to verify the identities of political advertisement buyers.

“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,” executive Katie Harbath said during a weekend gathering of state election officials, according to Reuters.

The social media giant’s vetting of paid political content has come under deep scrutiny after revelations that Russian-linked agents purchased politically incendiary content, part of what American intelligence officials and prosecutors describe as a concerted effort to disrupt the election.

An indictment of 13 Russian nationals, released this week as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of election meddling, alleged that Russians working for the Internet Research Agency (IRA) posed as Americans to buy political advertisements on social media, circumventing laws on foreign involvement in American politics.

Often referred to as a “troll farm,” the IRA is said by the indictment to engage in “information warfare against the United States of America”. The content was intended to support Donald Trump, attack Hillary Clinton and and “sow discord in the U.S. political system,” the indictment says.

The indictment’s allegations of online Russian activity echo disclosures earlier this year by Facebook, which said the Internet Research Agency. used ads to promote content that was seen by some 126 million Americans.

Facing intensifying calls from Congress to better vet political content, Facebook announced new transparency rules last year intended to identify paid political posts and who purchases them. Twitter also pledged to share more information about paid political advertising.

A bipartisan bill before Congress would subject internet giants to the same political disclosure rules that govern television, radio and print advertisements.

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