As fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal continues, Facebook has rolled out a new authorization process designed to deter political ads and official Facebook accounts that intend to disrupt elections. In order to be verified, anyone wanting to run political ads now has to fork over the last four digits of their Social Security number, a government ID, and a residential mailing address.
Facebook officials on Tuesday briefed House Democratic Caucus staffers on the new authorization process to run political ads and official Facebook accounts on the social media platform, telling the press aides that beginning this summer, every page admin for both organic content and ads must be authorized through the two-week verification process available now. (This is assuming all congressional Facebook accounts fall under the rules for political and top-followed accounts.)
An invitation to the meeting, titled “Expanding Your Audience with Facebook Ads,” said the briefing was on “best practices for running Ads on official accounts.” In a back-and-forth with Facebook officials, some aides expressed concern over giving the social media platform their personal information and asked how their privacy would be protected and why the change was necessary, according to Democratic staffers who were at the meeting.
“It’s a huge overreach by Facebook,” one Democratic aide told The Intercept. “They’re going to solve the problem by collecting more data? To figure out if I’m a bot?”
A Facebook spokesperson said the company would not repurpose the information it collects to verify an advertiser and that the information is deleted after authorization is complete.
“It’s a huge overreach by Facebook.”
The new verification process to help “ensure transparency and authenticity in political ads” quietly went live on Monday and is currently only available in the U.S. It applies to anyone wanting to run political ads, which Facebook defines as: “an ad that is made by or on behalf of a candidate for public office, a political party, or a political action committee; that advocates for the outcome of an election to public office; that relates to the voting in an election for public office; that relates to any national legislative issue of public importance in the place where the ad is being run; or that is otherwise regulated as political or election-related advertising.”
Advertisers are also required to disclose who is paying for the ad. And to confirm the mailing address, Facebook will mail a letter with a unique access code. It’s an expansion from what the company first outlined in October, when their proposed steps for “additional transparency” said advertisers running political ads would be forced to verify only their location and identity. In April, Facebook tightened the rules to include “issue ads,” in addition to election-related ones.
Just two weeks ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before members of Congress and answered questions on the harvesting of user data by Cambridge Analytica, Russia’s election interference, platform monopolies, and its privacy practices, among other issues.
Update: April 26, 2018
This story was updated with comment from Facebook.