Facebook: If you want to buy a political ad, you now have to be “authorized”

As part of a slew of recent changes stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook announced Friday that it would require advertisers to be “authorized” before they could post political ads.

The new policy comes just a few months after Facebook announced related moves after it discovered sketchy ad buys that likely came from the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll factory.

“We are working with third parties to develop a list of key issues, which we will refine over time,” Rob Goldman, vice president of Ads, and Alex Himel, vice president of Local & Pages, wrote in the Friday blog post.

“To get authorized by Facebook, advertisers will need to confirm their identity and location. Advertisers will be prohibited from running political ads—electoral or issue-based—until they are authorized.”

Under what criteria Facebook would “authorize” ad buyers, the company did not say directly in the post. However, Beth Gauthier, a Facebook spokeswoman, told Ars by email that there will be a three-step process for authorization.

“First, Page admins and ad account holders will have to submit their government-issued IDs and provide a physical mailing address for verification,” she wrote. “Second, we’ll confirm each address by mailing a letter with a unique access code that only their specific Facebook account can use, and, third, advertisers will also have to disclose what candidate, organization or business they represent.”

Given that fake IDs, US mailing addresses, and the creation of an LLC are all quite easy to procure—even from abroad—it’s not immediately apparent what meaningful effect, if any, this process will have against protecting the platform and its users from foreign malicious actors.

The executives further explained, however, that these ads will be “clearly labeled” as “Political Ad” with “paid for by” information. It’s still unclear as to whether those ads will include the same meaningless disclosures often found in television ads (the “Paid for by Americans for a more Awesome America” style text often found in the lower third at the end of ads).

The company also said that people who manage Pages with “large numbers of followers” must now be “verified.” How this verification would take place, Facebook did not say.

“We know we were slow to pick-up foreign interference in the 2016 US elections,” the Facebook vice presidents wrote. “Today’s updates are designed to prevent future abuse in elections—and to help ensure you have the information that you need to assess political and issue ads, as well as content on Pages. By increasing transparency around ads and Pages on Facebook, we can increase accountability for advertisers—improving our service for everyone.”

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