Facebook CEO will require identity, location verification for political ads

In prepared remarks that he will deliver to Congress this week, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg discloses plans to confirm both the identity and location of any advertiser who wants to run political ads on the social network.

Advertisers will need to be authorized by Facebook in order to run “political or issue ads,” the statement reads. As part of that authorization, both the name of the company and their location will be disclosed to Facebook.

To enhance transparency, Facebook will label political ads and who who paid for them, so users of the site will be aware.

The same identification policies will also apply to people who manage “large pages.” Zuckerberg will tell Congress that this approach should cut down on fake accounts that are used to spread “misinformation or divisive content.”

The efforts seek to tackle an ongoing “fake news” issue, in which content created and promoted on Facebook has been used to stir up discontent around the world. In many cases, the so-called “trolls” responsible have been found to be from Russia, impersonating people from the country they are targeting.

Facebook’s crackdown will require the company to hire thousands of new employees. The company plans to have personnel in place before the 2018 U.S. elections this fall, ahead of critical votes in Mexico, Brazil, India, and Pakistan.

“These steps by themselves won’t stop all people trying to game the system,” Zuckerberg will say. “But they will make it a lot harder for anyone to do what the Russians did during the 2016 election and use fake accounts and pages to run ads.”

OWI Take: Facebook’s steps toward greater transparency and disclosure may help improve the company’s reputation and rebuild Trust & Safety with users — something that has eroded in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Zuckerberg’s comments do, however, raise questions about Facebook’s power in independently deciding what level of identity verification is acceptable, what ads are responsible, what constitutes a “large” enough page to trigger identity verification, and much more. OWI believes Facebook will need to offer even greater transparency going forward, as it implements these changes.