Facebook is tightening restrictions around its massive ad business, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg announcing on Friday that all advertisers running “political or issue ads” will need to be verified by the social network.
Zuckerberg said the move comes after reviewing how the site was leveraged by Russian trolls during the 2016 U.S. election — and pointed to “important” elections, including the U.S. midterm elections, coming later this year.
“From now on, every advertiser who wants to run political or issue ads will need to be verified. To get verified, advertisers will need to confirm their identity and location. Any advertiser who doesn’t pass will be prohibited from running political or issue ads,” said Zuckerberg on his Facebook page. “We will also label them and advertisers will have to show you who paid for them. We’re starting this in the US and expanding to the rest of the world in the coming months.”
Pages with large followings will also require verification, the chief exec said. “This will make it much harder for people to run pages using fake accounts, or to grow virally and spread misinformation or divisive content that way,” explained Zuckerberg.
Facebook will hire “thousands” of new workers to make sure pages and advertisers are verified by the time election season rolls around, he added.
Earlier this week, Facebook kicked off hundreds of Kremlin-linked trolls from its platform. The social network has been heavily criticized for acting slowly in removing misinformation before and after the 2016 U.S. election. Zuckerberg initially said it was “crazy” to believe fake news on the site influenced the election. He changed his tune last fall, saying he was “dead serious” about weeding out Russian meddlers.
The changes proposed on Friday follow the company’s plan to verify political advertisers by postcard, announced earlier this year. They also come the week before Zuckerberg is set to testify before Congress on the Cambridge Analytica data leak, where up to 87 million users had their information unknowingly grabbed by the political firm.