Monday, 9 March 2020

Facebook Inc. reversed its initial decision and removed an unlawful & misleading Trump political advertisement from its Internet platform

IMAGE: BBC News, 5 March 2020

The Washington Post, 6 March 2020: 

Facebook removed Trump campaign ads on Thursday for violating its policy against misleading references to the U.S. census amid criticism that it has given politicians too much leeway to misinform users on its platform. 

The Trump ads urged Facebook users to “take the official 2020 Congressional District Census today,” but despite the look and language of the ad, they were not related to the once-a-decade national count of U.S. citizens happening this year. Instead, the ads linked to a survey on the “Certified Website of President Donald J. Trump,” which collected information and requested a donation. 

Facebook initially said it would permit the ads, ruling that they were clearly not a part of the U.S. census, according to Popular Information, a politically themed online newsletter that first reported on the ads and the company’s refusal to remove them. Facebook announced its policy against misleading references to the census in December.... 

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh declined to comment about the ads or Facebook’s decision. The ads were paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, which raises money for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee in support of the president’s reelection.... 

Facebook’s handling of the ads frustrated civil rights leaders and Democrats who have warned that the company’s rules against misinformation are too lax. 

“Facebook has demonstrated once again that protecting its users from misinformation is not a priority, and instead that its integrity can be bought by the Trump campaign,” said Rashad Robinson, president of civil rights group Color of Change, in a statement. “While Facebook has now committed to removing the mis-informing post in question, the damage is done.” 

The Trump campaign ads echoed similar surveys the RNC has mailed out that look like census forms but are in fact requests for donations. Congress has passed laws, including one after the 2010 Census, aiming to curb mail that impersonates a federal agency. 

At an Oversight Committee hearing last month, House Democrats pressed Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham on the matter, asking him to request that the RNC stop sending out fundraising mailers that mimic census forms.....

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