Facebook Blocks Trump Ads for Distorting Census Info

(CN) — Advertisements for the President Trump campaign disguised as census promotion were taken off Facebook, with the platform announcing Thursday that the materials would confuse users about the decennial count.

With an appeal to “respond NOW,” the ad rolled out earlier this week from Trump Make America Great Again touted the importance of taking the census but linked to a partisan survey that used language like “radical left,” then asked participants to donate money.

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally last week in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“President Trump needs you to take the Official 2020 Congressional District Census today,” the ad read. “We need to hear from you before the most important election in American history.”

Census takers, it should be noted, are not slated to begin the survey until next week.

Despite initially allowing the ads to run, Facebook said Thursday the ads interfered with its census interference policy, announced in December 2019, which prohibits the promotion of false information regarding how to participate in the census.

“There are policies in place to prevent confusion around the official U.S. census and this is an example of those being enforced,” a Facebook representative said in a statement.

The Trump campaign, which ran the ad jointly with the Republican National Committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Its survey questions asked participants for their personal information as well as about their views of President Trump, what news outlets they engage with, and if they “think Nancy Pelosi and the Radical Left are putting their personal anti-Trump agenda ahead of what’s best for the American people.”

Popular Information reporter Judd Legum, who first broke the news of the misleading campaign, says Facebook has never before removed Trump campaign ads due to misinformation.

Facebook has been under pressure to do a better job fact checking since it was accused of playing a major role in spreading misinformation about presidential candidates in the 2016 election.

Before Facebook removed the ads Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference the network was misleading users by allowing the campaign to continue.

“This is, on the part of Facebook, a robust, unacceptable interference in the Census,” Pelosi said.

The company is still under scrutiny as to whether it’s doing enough to prevent the spread of political misinformation, especially with the 2020 presidential election months away.

According to a January 2020 poll by PBS NewsHour and NPR, 35% of U.S. adults think misleading information is the biggest threat in keeping America’s elections safe and accurate.

Reporting on an audit from New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, meanwhile, The Washington Post said the social network is still unable to prevent many malicious campaigns from exploiting Facebook’s algorithms to push malicious views.

Tandon researchers reportedly performed a security audit of online ads posted to Facebook between May 2018 and June 2019 and found that more than 86,000 Facebook pages ran at least one political ad whose buyer had not been properly disclosed. Moreover, it found that around 20,000 ads also had been bought by “likely inauthentic communities.”

%d bloggers like this: