Facebook will soon rely on centuries-old technology to try to prevent foreign meddling in US elections: the post office. Baffled in 2016 by Russian agents who bought ads to sway the presidential campaign, Katie Harbath, Facebook's global politics and government outreach director, told a meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State in Washington that the company would send postcards to potential buyers of political ads to confirm they reside in the US, the AP reports. The recipient would then have to enter a code in Facebook to continue buying the ad. The method will first apply to ads that name candidates ahead of the midterm elections in November, says Facebook spokesman Andy Stone.
The plan was unveiled a day after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians with interfering in the presidential election. Mueller's indictment described how Russian agents stole Social Security numbers and other information from real Americans and used them to create bank and PayPal accounts to buy online ads. Facebook—which uncovered some 3,000 Russian-linked ads bought before and after the November 2016 election—didn't say how the new method would prevent foreign agents from setting up local mailing addresses and hiring people in the US to check them. But Stone says the method is "one piece of a much larger effort to address foreign electoral influence on our platform." (President Trump says they're "laughing their asses off in Moscow.")