After Russian meddling, Facebook will verify adverts with postcards ahead of US midterm elections

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 February, 2018, 5:05am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2018, 10:47pm

Facebook will soon rely on centuries-old technology to try to prevent foreign meddling in US elections: the post office.

The social media company was baffled in 2016 by Russian agents who bought ads to sway the US presidential campaign.

Facebook’s global politics and government outreach director, Katie Harbath, told the National Association of Secretaries of State on Saturday that as a result the company would send postcards to potential buyers of political ads to confirm they live in the US.

The recipient would then have to enter a code in Facebook to continue buying the ad.

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The method will first apply to ads that name candidates ahead of the midterm elections in November, said Facebook spokesman Andy Stone.

The plan was unveiled a day after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians with interfering in the presidential election.

According to the indictment, the team of undercover Russian operatives, funded by Russian restaurateur Yevgeny Prigozhin – also known as “Putin’s chef” – travelled the US to research ways to meddle in the election.

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They went on to buy adverts targeting “purple” – or politically undecided – areas to promote fringe candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders while attacking more mainstream figures Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, the indictment claims.

They also used social media to discourage minority voters from taking part in the elections, the charges claim.

The indictment, which emerged from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, said that the campaign also had a broad remit to sow division in the US.

It does not charge that the campaign affected the election results.