Harris Takes Facebook to Task Over Trump Ads Containing Census Misinformation

Mar 15, 2020 | Politics

Photo by Gage Skidmore

S.E. Williams | Contributor

Last week California Senator Kamala Harris sent a letter to Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg demanding answers and accountability after Facebook approved thousands of Trump campaign ads that directed users to a misleading “Official 2020 Congressional District Census” site despite a clear policy prohibiting misinformation related to the Census.

In a scathing tone Harris wrote, “Facebook’s failure to enforce your policies banning misinformation is shocking and casts doubts about your company’s commitment to a complete and accurate Census.”

She continued, “These advertisements should never have been approved. I am concerned that after receiving credit for combatting misinformation about the 2020 Census, you and your company are now backing away from full enforcement of those policies.”

Harris further expressed her belief that Facebook’s ability to effectively combat misinformation during the 2020 Census will presage its ability to combat similar misinformation during the upcoming elections.

Adding, “I understand that you are working with civil rights groups, including The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, to prepare for the upcoming elections, and I encourage you to continue this work and to heed the advice you receive from the civil rights community.”

According to Harris, on Thursday, March 5, 2020, despite Facebook’s robust content and advertising policies, and after receiving public recognition and credit for its steps to guard against Census misinformation, the company approved and ran thousands of advertisements from the Trump campaign that asked its users to “take the Official 2020 Congressional District Census today.”

However, users who clicked on the advertisements were not directed to a government website. Instead, the advertisements directed users to a campaign webpage deceptively designed to resemble an official government website featuring text that read the “Certified Website of President Donald J. Trump” and “For Official Use Only.”

Harris cautioned how the advertisements—on their face—were a violation of Facebook’s policy prohibiting misleading information about when and how to participate in the census including misrepresentations of the dates, locations, time and methods for census participation. “Nonetheless,” Harris admonished, “these advertisements were approved and remained on your platform for hours after Facebook was made aware of them.”

“Facebook’s failure to enforce your policies banning misinformation is shocking and casts doubts about your company’s commitment to a complete and accurate Census,” concluded Harris condemning the social media conglomerate for its actions. “These advertisements should never have been approved,” she continued. “I am concerned that after receiving credit for combatting misinformation about the 2020 Census, you and your company are now backing away from full enforcement of those policies.”

Harris demanded Facebook answer a series of questions related to the issue. The questions ranged from how the Trump campaign’s advertisements were approved despite Facebooks policy of no census interference to whether the company’s census policy applies to other Facebook platforms like Instagram and others?

Harris requested an official response by Friday, March 13, 2020.

The Black Voice News will continue to follow this story.

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