Facebook's Director of Product Management Rob Leathern has provided an overview of where the platform currently stands on advertiser verification, and how it's looking to improve its systems in order to ensure that more businesses are verified, increasing ad transparency, and system integrity, into the future.
Over the last few years, Facebook has significantly increased its transparency requirements for political advertisers specifically, with any person or Page running a political ad now required to submit official documentation for assessment. All Facebook ads are also now listed in its Ad Library, increasing transparency - but ideally, in order to provide full assurance, Facebook will eventually be able to verify all businesses on its platform, with more stringent qualification requirements, in order to maintain a more secure, accountable ad system.
In a long Twitter thread, Leathern has outlined the various challenges facing all digital ad providers in facilitating effective advertiser verification processes:
"We know that one cannot consistently rely on verifying business entities or their assets, as (1) not all small businesses have formal structures or registrations, (2) third-party business databases are hugely variable in quality and coverage, (3) regulators or local licensing authorities are often not verifying information themselves and (4) when businesses or entities are easy to create, individuals can hide behind them."
This, inevitably, means that some shady operators are able slip through the cracks in Facebook's system, and while using existing methods like phone verification and two-factor authentication do improve its capacity, they're not foolproof - and not applicable to all regions either way.
Leathern notes that Facebook's intention, eventually, is to formulate a better advertiser verification process, which will make it easy for businesses to register official information.
"The last thing we want is to add even more burden to small businesses (SMBs) at a time when they’re already overwhelmed. We’re exploring a variety of verification mechanisms."
Leathern says that a key part of the puzzle is information vendors.
"Every platform uses them for verifying business and personal ID information, and while we work with some great ones, we need more in local markets and higher precision. In some countries these vendors simply don’t exist, and we need to have global solutions."
In order to resolve this, Facebook's working to establish better information networks - but Leathern notes that these could take years to develop.
Eventually, Leathern envisions a process where businesses will be able to facilitate verification requirements via a mix of different qualification documents and sources, which is what Facebook's now moving towards in its planning.
"We’re supportive of more verification for advertisers. There is no quick or easy solution. Some of this may be done by (the majority who are) well-intentioned opting-in to confirm more information to distinguish themselves from others. Long-term, being effective here will require businesses, advertisers, regulators and policymakers working together to set clear requirements and share best practices."
For Facebook advertisers, that could mean that you'll soon need to provide official documentation, in various forms, to qualify for Facebook ads. Nothing is set to change right now, but it is worth noting that Facebook's looking to develop more accountable, transparent systems for all businesses, and that it's also seeking to expand its current verification requirements to more advertisers over time.
That, eventually, will improve the Facebook ad eco-system for all, but it may cause some headaches if/when Facebook does look to extend its requirements. At present, Facebook only requires political advertisers and Pages with large followings to undergo verification - or those that Facebook suspects of seeking to mislead users.