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Facebook will verify identities for suspiciously popular accounts

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
Facebook logo is seen displayed on smartphone in this illustration photo taken Krakow, Poland on March 10, 2020. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Facebook has been verifying the identities of Page managers for a while in its quest to stamp out misinformation, but now it’s shifting that attention to individual accounts. The social network will now verify the identities of people behind profiles that both have a “pattern of inauthentic behavior” and whose posts “rapidly go viral” in the US. This could determine if a suspiciously popular account is really part of a propaganda campaign, to put it another way.

The company will reduce the distribution of viral posts if an account holder either has ID that doesn’t match the linked account or declines to verify the ID. It’ll also ban these people from posting on Pages they administrate until they identify through the existing Page Publisher Authorization process. Facebook said IDs would be “stored securely” and wouldn’t be shared on people’s profiles.

This stops short of banning the users outright, although Facebook has previously removed accounts and Pages when it believes they’re part of shady misinformation campaigns. However, this could still reduce the chances those campaigns succeed in spreading bogus claims — an important effort with the 2020 presidential election approaching, even if it doesn’t hold politicians accountable.