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Facebook to verify identities for political ads

WASHINGTON: Facebook announced Friday that it will require any political ads on its platform to state who is paying for the message, and would verify the identity of the payer, in a bid to curb outside election interference.

The social network, which is under fire for enabling manipulation of its platform in the 2016 election, said the new policy would require any messages for candidates or public issues to include the label “political ad” with the name of the person or entity paying for it.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said the change will mean “we will hire thousands of more people” and will take place this year ahead of US mid-term elections in November.

“These steps by themselves won’t stop all people trying to game the system,” Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page. “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.”

A separate Facebook statement said the changes would help improve transparency and accountability of the network.

“We believe that when you visit a page or see an ad on Facebook, it should be clear who it’s coming from,” the statement said.

“We also think it’s important for people to be able to see the other ads a page is running, even if they’re not directed at you.”

To get authorized by Facebook, “advertisers will need to confirm their identity and location,” the statement said.

“Advertisers will be prohibited from running political ads — electoral or issue-based — until they are authorized.”

Facebook made the announcement as Zuckerberg prepares to appear before Congress next week to answer questions about the harvesting of personal data on 87 million users by a British political consultancy working for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

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