Nearly three years after a Russian propaganda group infiltrated Facebook and other tech platforms in hopes of seeding chaos in the 2016 US election, Facebook has more fully detailed its plan to protect elections around the world. In a call with reporters Thursday, Facebook executives elaborated on their use of human moderators, third-party fact checkers, and automation to catch fake accounts, foreign interference, fake news, and to increase transparency in political ads. The company has made some concrete strides, and has promised to double its safety and security team to 20,000 people this year. And yet, as midterm races heat up in states across America, and elections overseas come and go, many of these well-meaning tools remain a work in progress. “None of us can turn back the clock, but we are all responsible for making sure the same kind of attack on our democracy does not happen again,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of product management said on the call. “And we are taking our role in that effort very, very seriously.”
Facebook provided some new details about previously announced strategies to counter election meddling. The company announced, for instance, that its long promised advertisement transparency tool, which will allow people to see the ads that any given Facebook page has purchased, will be available globally this summer. In addition to that public portal, Facebook will require anyone seeking to place political ads in the United States to first provide a copy of their government-issued ID and a mailing address. Facebook will then mail the would-be advertiser a special access code at that address, and require the advertiser to disclose what candidate or organization they’re advertising on behalf of. Once the ads are live, they’ll include a “paid for by” label, similar to the disclosures on televised political ads.
While this process may prevent people from purchasing phony ads that are explicitly about an election, however, it doesn’t apply to issue-based ads. That leaves open a huge loophole for bad actors, including the Russian propagandists whose ads often focused on stoking tensions around issues like police brutality or immigration, rather than promoting candidates. This process is also currently exclusive to the United States.