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Facebook bans misleading content and ads about the 2020 census

Facebook is taking new initiatives to help protect the 2020 census by banning misleading information and prohibiting ads that shed a negative light on the constitutionally mandated process. 

The social network’s new census interference policy includes prohibiting misrepresentation of dates, times, methods, and the government’s involvement in the census, as well as coordinated interference. The updates were announced in a blog post on Thursday, December 19, and will begin to be enforced starting next month. 

“We must do our part to ensure an accurate census count, which is critical for the distribution of federal funds, the apportioning of electoral representatives and the functioning of a democracy,” wrote Kevin Martin, vice president of U.S. public policy at Facebook, and Samidh Chakrabarti, director of product management, civic engagement at Facebook, in the post. 

Facebook said that all content and advertising about the census would be assessed by a team of reviewers who will be trained by a consultant with expertise in the U.S. census. Any content or ads that violate the new policy will be removed, even if it is posted by a politician, which is a big deal since Facebook doesn’t even fact check political ads. 

The census occurs every 10 years as required by Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution and helps determine the number and allocation of seats in the House of Representatives, as well as how much funding schools, hospitals, and roads should receive based on the population data. 

The April 1, 2020, census will be the first time people will have the option of completing it online. Collecting responses over the web could allow the Census Bureau to cut back on the staffing of temporary employees used during the collection process and send out reminder emails before the survey deadline.

“Our work to help protect the census from interference is strengthened thanks to input from members of Congress, the Census Bureau, and other experts. We support the bipartisan resolution introduced by Senators [Brian] Schatz and [Lisa] Murkowski to ensure the census is fair and accurate, and to encourage everyone in the U.S. to be counted,” the blog post added.

Google and YouTube are also doing their part to support the census by combating deceptive practices and the spread of misinformation about the census through new policies announced last week. 

YouTube expanded its deceptive practice policies to cover the census process, and Google will work to ensure that only legitimate emails from the Census Bureau are delivered through Gmail. 

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