Facebook is going to start sending physical postcards through the United States Postal Service (USPS) to verify the identity and location of anyone who wants to purchase election-related advertising on the world's largest social network. The change in procedure, which will go into effect sometime later this year, is intended to prevent Russia and other foreign actors from posing as US citizens in attempts to meddle in elections.
Social media services have been a dumping ground for so-called 'fake news', including Facebook, the world's largest social networking site with over 1.4 billion daily active users, and 2.13 billion monthly active users. The problem received widespread attention during and after the presidential election that saw then-Republican candidate Donald Trump defeat his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
Facebook's decision to use postcards with special codes for election-related adverts comes a day after US Special Counsel Robert Mueller opened an indictment accusing 13 Russian citizens and three Russian companies of criminal and espionage conspiracy. According to the indictment, Russians used social media to meddle in the US election and staged rallies with the "strategic goal to sow discord in the US political system," The Wall Street Journal reports.
Whether or not Russia's alleged effort impacted the end result of the presidential election is a point of debate. Regardless, Facebook is taking steps to lessen the chance of that happening in future elections.
"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," Katie Harbath, Facebook's global director of policy and programs, told Reuters. Harbath acknowledged that sending postcards "won't solve everything," but Facebook believes it is a step in the right direction.
Harbath did not say when exactly Facebook will start using postcards, but did indicate they would go out before this year's mid-term congressional elections in November.