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Facebook removes Trump ads after Pelosi points out census confusion

2 years 9 months 5 hours ago Thursday, March 05 2020 Mar 5, 2020 March 05, 2020 9:28 PM March 05, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

Facebook began taking down ads for the reelection campaign of President Donald Trump that directed people to a survey labeled, "a census," hours after Nancy Pelosi said it could be confused with the once-a-decade head count.

Facebook said in a statement that it was enforcing policies to prevent confusion over the 2020 census, which begins next week for most.

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

Pelosi called the survey sponsored by the Trump reelection campaign, "an absolute lie."

“A lie that is consistent with the misrepresentation policy of Facebook," Pelosi said. “But now they're messing with who we are as Americans. I know the profit motive is their business model, but it should not come at the cost of counting who is in our country."

The ad says, “President Trump needs you to take the Official 2020 Congressional District Census today." Clicking on a red button saying “Take the Survey” leads to a website with questions asking visitors about party affiliation, whether they intend to support Trump and which media organizations they get their information, among other questions.

Similar mailings have been distributed across the nation. 

Four Democratic House members — Reps. Carolyn Maloney of New York, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Gerry Connolly of Virginia, and Katie Porter of California — demanded that the Republican National Committee stop mailings or online ads that resemble Census Bureau documents.

The Republican National Committee said it would add language to future mailings to make it more clear.

“This is a standard direct mail piece that has been utilized for decades. These mailers are fully compliant with the law, clearly marked as a fundraising solicitation from the Republican National Committee, and in no way resemble the official government census," the RNC statement said.

Census Bureau officials are on high alert for online misinformation aimed at confusing people about who are eligible to fill out the form, or how to properly file it. The bureau is also sifting through the web for imitation websites posing as the official census site.

Facebook began banning ads that discourage people from participating in the census or portray it as “useless" in January. The ban includes ads on both Facebook and Instagram, both under the same ownership. Misleading posts about the census would also be subject to removal and typically, the platforms do not remove false or misleading information from either site unless it gives wrong information about voting.

The Trump campaign began running different versions of the census ad on Facebook nation-wide on Tuesday from Trump and Vice President Mike Pence's official Facebook page.

Former Census Bureau director John Thompson said this Trump campaign put a new spin on an old strategy and for years, republicans have been mimicking the census in their fundraising mailers. Thomas also said Trump's ads and the Republican mailers could dupe people into thinking they've already filled out the form and if anything, this would backfire on Trump's supporters.

“I don’t know that they would want to have confusion,” said Thompson, who served in the Obama administration. “It could have a reverse impact on the Trump administration, (it) could create an under-representation of their constituents in the census.”

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