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Facebook delays identity checks for UK political ads following abuses

It realized people could game the system.
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Thomas Trutschel via Getty Images

Facebook is delaying its identity checks for political ads in the UK. The internet giant told The Guardian in a statement that it was delaying the requirement to December after realizing people could "game the disclaimer system" by entering bogus information. It'll institute the requirement after it adds "enforcement systems" to ensure accuracy, according to a spokesperson. The move came after a series of exposés that showed how easy it was to attach fake identities to disclosures, both in the UK and in the US.

Business Insider set up fake anti-Brexit ads attributed to Cambridge Analytica, for instance, while Vice News ran bogus ads linked to ISIS and Mike Pence. ProPublica, meanwhile, discovered that the pro-Trump "Energy4US" group was really a facade for oil giants hoping to prop up fossil fuels. Facebook said it required that people represent themselves "accurately," but the company approved all of the disclosures in spite of identity mismatches.

While it's not certain what Facebook will do to improve its identity checks, but it's under a lot of pressure to do so. Local UK elections are due in May, and rival service Twitter has stricter disclosure policies that tie disclosure to employment records and thus reduce the chances for abuse. If Facebook didn't refine its process, it risked accusations of allowing election interference campaigns that wouldn't fly elsewhere.

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