Facebook advertisers who want to promote their views on key political issues, such as abortion and Second Amendment rights, should now verify their identity and location, the company announced today. These "problem announcements" will also be labeled "political announcements" on the platform, along with information about who pays for their existence. The company says that artificial intelligence and real human beings will control advertisers to identify those that need to be labeled and verified. Users can also report ads that seem political in nature and that lack verification.
In addition to advertisers needing to prove who they are, managers of "big" pages will also have to do so. Facebook has not said what constitutes a big page, but the managers of those pages must show where they live and who they are. The company says that this should hinder the emergence of false pages and that they become viral, just like the Macedonian teenagers. These changes will arrive in the United States at the beginning and will spread around the world this summer. Facebook previously instituted this verification for electoral notices.
All these changes occur when Facebook deals with the global electoral interference launched from its platform. The Russian Internet Research Agency, for example, managed to launch thousands of fake accounts that were used to promote divisive issues during the 2016 elections. Although these are native publications, not announcements, today's changes speak in two ways in which Facebook tries to fight similar interferences. Allowing topic-based ads to be published by unconfirmed parties was a significant gap; and when starting to verify large groups, it is possible that Facebook can detect some malicious pages, such as those used by the IRA.
This week, Facebook suspended 273 accounts and linked pages to the Russian Internet Research Agency. These pages did not have as much to do with elections abroad as with the influences of Russian users. It is likely that Facebook wants to verify the pages, so it can prevent another IRA situation from happening again.