Facebook intends to embark on strict and time-consuming identity checks on all political advertisers in India ahead of next year’s general election.

The social media platform has emailed individual advertisers and agencies saying they will be required to provide scanned copies of proof of address, as well as proof of identity. These will then be checked by physical visits from Facebook’s India-based team, according to the Economic Times.

Another option is for advertisers to be sent a verification code by Facebook through the post – the same method used in the US during the mid-term elections. The process could “take weeks” to complete, Facebook warned.

A spokesperson told the Economic Times that the social media giant is “committed to maintaining elections’ integrity and this is something we take very seriously”, adding that capabilities and defences have been strengthened in recent months in order to prevent interference.

“We have updated our policies to require more thorough documentation from advertisers who want to run election-related ads on the platform,” the spokesperson said.

India’s general election is due to be held between April and May next year and Facebook, which has 294 million users in India, is expected to feature heavily as part of political parties’ media strategies.

The updated approach to political advertising in India follows the US, Brazil and the UK where Facebook has announced new, tighter rules in this area, following allegations of Russian manipulation and the misuse of users’ personal data.

But there are concerns the new rules may not be enough to police Facebook in India: the Economic Times reported fears that it could be possible to work around the rules, mainly through proxy advertising – basically an organisation or individual advertising on another’s behalf.

Another big worry is that Facebook may exempt eligible news outlets from authorisation – a potentially major step given that political parties and individuals have media interests.

“This is a significant loophole, and Facebook should have ensured this because now, these news publishers could act as a proxy for their owners—political parties, or individual MPs,” an unnamed digital strategist told the Times.

Sourced from Economic Times; additional content by WARC staff