October 2018: Facebook page on the smartphone on table. Facebook is very well know social networking service founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook to verify identities of suspiciously popular accounts

Image credit: Pavel Starikov | Dreamstime

Facebook has announced that it will extend its identity verification requirements to viral personal accounts in a bid to help prevent the spread of misinformation.

According to the social media firm, it will require profiles that are ‘high-reach’, and whose posts rapidly go viral, to undergo verification by showing some form of ID if they're found to be exhibiting patterns of “inauthentic” behaviour.

Facebook said it will store the information “securely” and the information won’t be shared on a user’s platform. Due to security reasons, however, the firm hasn't divulged the metrics it will use to determine “inauthentic” behaviour, but said that it will base its requests for verification on “patterns”. 

It said in a blog post: “We will verify the identity of people who have a pattern of inauthentic behaviour on Facebook and whose posts start to rapidly go viral in the US. 

“We want people to feel confident that they understand who’s behind the content they’re seeing on Facebook and this is particularly important when it comes to content that’s reaching a lot of people.”

Facebook added that if a user fails to verify their profile by providing an ID that does not match the name on the account, then it will limit the reach of the questioned account’s post.

This notably stops short of an outright ban or removal of an account: more unilateral measures which the platform has preferred to shy away from.

If the person in question is a page administrator, they will also be required to complete a verification request for their page accounts. Furthermore, Facebook said it won’t allow users to post onto pages until their accounts are verified.

The move to require verification for personal accounts that often go viral will mark an incremental step for Facebook, which instituted similar requirements for page owners back in 2018 when it launched the ‘Page Publishing Authorisation’ program. That has required the managers of some ‘large’ Facebook Pages to go through a required identification process.

“We want to ensure the content you see on Facebook is authentic and comes from real people, not bots or others trying to conceal their identity,” the company added in its blog post about the latest verification process.

Facebook’s new requirements come after overseas accounts attempted to profit from ad revenue attracted through partisan political pages. This move will ensure fewer people see updates from a person’s profile and page until they complete the outlined steps.

Those who have previously falsely listed their country of origin became a key point of concern following the 2016 US Presidential Election, in which numerous Russian-based groups targeted American voters with misleading posts and ads.

Facebook has since sought to add more transparency as to where Pages, in particular, are geographically based, in order to help users understand who exactly they're interacting with at any given time.

In other news, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, told Fox News this week that the company should step away from regulating online speech and has sought to distance his platform from Twitter.

This move follows US President Donald Trump threatening to strictly regulate or shut down social media platforms entirely after Twitter, for the first time, flagged two of his tweets promoting false claims on the platform.

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