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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at an October event. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facebook on Thursday said it's banning posts and ads that discourage people from taking part in the 2020 Census or mislead them about how to do it, a move the company promised was in the works earlier this year.

Why it matters: Advocacy groups have long warned that misinformation can be used to depress census participation, skewing results and leading to under-representation for immigrants, people of color and other marginalized groups when the census is later used to draw political districts.

Driving the news: Per a blog post from Kevin Martin, Facebook's top U.S. policy exec, Facebook is prohibiting:

  • "Misrepresentation of the dates, locations, times and methods for census participation;
  • Misrepresentation of who can participate in the census and what information and/or materials must be provided in order to participate;
  • Content stating that census participation may or will result in law enforcement consequences;
  • Misrepresentation of government involvement in the census, including that an individual’s census information will be shared with another government agency; and
  • Calls for coordinated interference that would affect an individual’s ability to participate in the census, enforcement of which often requires additional information and context."

Details: That last point aims to stop people from using Facebook to do things like rally others to take jobs as census takers with the express aim of undercounting immigrants, a company spokesperson said, adding that Facebook would likely need to work with a "trusted partner" like the Census Bureau to identify and remove that sort of material.

  • The company will work directly with the Census Bureau and local officials to enforce its policy.
  • Facebook is also banning ads that "portray census participation as useless or meaningless or advise people not to participate in the census," Martin said in the blog post.

The big picture: The census poses a vital systems test for Facebook and other social media companies that failed to keep misinformation from flooding their platforms around the 2016 presidential election. And it's a trial run for what lies in store as the 2020 election heats up.

Go deeper: Tech industry girds itself for fake census news

Go deeper

34 mins ago - World

COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming

Recreated from Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

South Africa alerted the world to the Omicron variant. Now data out of South Africa may serve as a warning of what we're facing.

Driving the news: South Africa recorded 11,535 new cases Thursday with 22.4% of tests coming back positive — up from an average of about 300 new cases, with a 2% test positivity rate 10 days earlier. The country's top public health officials expect that exponential rise to continue as Omicron rapidly becomes the dominant variant.

BuzzFeed to go public, after shareholders approve SPAC deal

Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed is set to become publicly traded on Monday, after shareholders of a SPAC called 890 Fifth Avenue Partners voted to approve a previously-announced merger.

Yes, but: The vast majority of the money the SPAC raised in January was yanked, a signal that investors aren't very optimistic about BuzzFeed's future prospects.

Omicron cases confirmed in 4 U.S. states

A healthcare worker inserts a Covid-19 rapid test into a machine in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Five cases of the newly-discovered Omicron variant were detected in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday, making New York the fourth state with confirmed cases.

The latest: In addition to New York, the variant has been confirmed in California, Colorado and Minnesota.

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