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Facebook to use snail mail to verify US election ads

Facebook to use snail mail to verify US election ads Featured

Despite all the talk about using artificial intelligence and machine learning in future, social media giant Facebook says it will take recourse to snail mail in order to verify that its next lot of election advertisements actually originate in the US.

The company said it would use postcards sent by US Mail later in 2018 to make sure that the identities and locations of people who wanted to purchase election-related ads on the site, Reuters reported.

Facebook — and also Google and Twitter — has come under pressure from the US government over having hosted ads and posts from alleged Russian actors that are claimed to have influenced the 2016 presidential poll.

The company has been at pains to explain what it will do to prevent any repeat of whatever is claimed to have happened, though some of the explanations about the "fake news" it is alleged to have spread have tended to be somewhat outlandish.

Katie Harbath, Facebook's global director of policy programmes, was reported to have said that the use of postcards bearing a specific code would be needed before ads that mentioned a specific candidate running for federal office were accepted.

“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 US,” she told a conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State, where executives from Twitter and Alphabet's Google also spoke.

But in an interview with Reuters later, Harbath admitted that even this measure "won't solve everything".

However, it was the most effective method that Facebook could come up with to prevent Russians or any others with nefarious intentions from buying ads while they masqueraded as someone else.

All 435 seats in the US House of Representatives and 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested in elections to be held in November. Thirty-nine state and territorial governorships and numerous other state and local elections will also be held.

Last week, Robert Mueller, who is inquiring into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 poll, issued an indictment that named 13 Russians and three companies as being allegedly involved in a campaign to subvert the election. The entities named now face court where the allegations will be tested.

Last October, Facebook said in a blog post: "For political advertisers that do not proactively disclose themselves, we are building machine learning tools that will help us find them and require them to verify their identity."

It appears that the company has now gone back to an old method which uses more mundane methods: snail mail.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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