To contain foreign interference in the upcoming US presidential election in 2020, Facebook announced a tightening of controls over political ads. Objective: to limit foreign interference in the political life of the United States, especially those coming from Russia.
From our correspondent in San Francisco,
During the 2016 US campaign, thousands of fake advertisements were bought on Facebook by Russian entities close to the Kremlin to influence voters in favor of Donald Trump. A scandal that, for over two years, has endlessly taint the image of the social network.
" People need to know who is trying to influence their vote, " Facebook wrote in its latest release. And to do this, the firm promises to better authenticate political advertisers on its platform. It's all about checking who is paying for messages, and especially from which country.
From mid-September, these customers will have to provide a piece of identification confirming their nationality, and especially their location, with an address in the United States, a tax number, but also an identification number of the Federal Electoral Commission. All this under penalty of suspension of the message by mid-October.
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This may seem obvious, but in 2016, these basic controls did not exist. The first checks appeared in 2018. Facebook promises more transparency too: each political advertisement will be marked "paid by", to know which personality, party, institution or company funded it.
The aim is to block foreign interference, particularly from Russia. Because according to the American justice, these Russian interferences highlighted in 2016 are continuing today. In July, during his hearing before the Congress, the former special prosecutor Robert Mueller said it very clearly.
Russian interference " continues right now, at the very time we are sitting, " he told congressional US Congressmen. And Robert Mueller knows something about it, since it was his investigation and his famous report that shed light on these attempts at interference.
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In 2016, these interferences that Mr. Mueller describes as " systematic and large " have largely been deployed on Facebook, including thousands of fake advertisements bought sometimes in rubles, between 2015 and 2017, by the Russian organization Internet Research Agency. Based in St. Petersburg, it is actually a satellite of the Russian intelligence services.
With his personal data, Facebook had thus allowed the Russians to target the conservative electorate in particular by posing as Americans hostile to the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. As a result, by the time of voting in 2016, according to Facebook, 126 million Americans had seen at least one of these fake advertisements paid for by real Russian agents.
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