Mar 6, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Facebook takes down Trump campaign's "census" ads

Zuckerberg and Trump.
Photo: Johannes Simon/Getty Images; Mark Wilson/Getty Images

After initially indicating it would not take action against campaign ads from President Trump that encouraged people to "take the Official 2020 Congressional District Census today," Facebook said Thursday it would take the messages down.

Why it matters: Facebook has generally subjected political advertising to few rules, but had said it would take a tough stand against any posts designed to mislead people about the census.

  • In this case, the company only took action after the problem was reported and civil rights groups spoke out.

Details: The ads also included a logo touting a "2020 Census," in an apparent effort to encourage supporters to provide the campaign with personal information.

  • Judd Legum at Popular Information reported early Thursday about the ads and said that Facebook was not taking action.
  • That drew an outcry from the Leadership Conference Education Fund and other civil rights groups, and Facebook eventually reversed its decision, citing a further review of the ads.

What they're saying:

  • Facebook, in a statement to Axios: "There are policies in place to prevent confusion around the official U.S. Census and this is an example of those being enforced."
  • Vanita Gupta, CEO of the Leadership Conference Education Fund: "While we're gratified that Facebook shut down Trump's attempt to sow confusion about how and when to participate in the 2020 Census, it's disturbing that the ads weren't immediately removed."
  • Sen. Mark Warner: "The Trump campaign's bogus 'official census' Facebook ads are deceptive and undermine public confidence in the census process. I'm glad Facebook heeded calls by @vanitaguptaCR and @juddlegum to take them down."
  • The New York Times' Charlie Warzel offered a "reminder that Facebook essentially relies on independent journalists like Judd to act as unpaid content moderators."
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