NEWS20 December 2019

Facebook to ban census misinformation

News North America Public Sector Technology

US – Facebook has launched a policy banning misleading information about the 2020 US census on its platform, as it looks to “ensure an accurate count”.

US census questionnaire

Posts that are found to violate Facebook’s new policy will be considered a breach of the platform’s community standards and removed, including content posted by politicians.

This includes posts that misrepresent the dates, locations, times and methods for taking part in the decennial survey; false information about who can take part and what they need to provide, and content stating that census participation may or will result in law enforcement consequences.

It will also cover misrepresentation of government involvement in the census and calls for coordinated interference.

Adverts that portray census participation as “useless or meaningless” or advise people not to take part will also be prohibited.

The company said it will begin enforcing the new rules from January. 

Kevin Martin, vice-president of US public policy, and Samidh Chakrabarti, director of product management, civic engagement, said in a blog post: “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.” 

Facebook is working with the Census Bureau to address false information and is monitoring potential interference using its operations centre.

The Census Bureau has said it is “actively fighting” the spread of misinformation and disinformation regarding the census, and has set up a trust and safety team to coordinate with social media platforms, partner organisations and cybersecurity officials.

Ron Jarmin, deputy director and chief operating officer, US Census Bureau, said: “Scammers, criminals, fraudsters, online trolls, unscrupulous opportunists and malicious actors are potential sources of disinformation that we expect to face with the 2020 census. Even benign misinformation carries significant risk. Urban legends spread faster online through social media than ever before, and sometimes, friendly supporters of the 2020 census and well-meaning groups accidentally spread misinformation when the information they have is incorrect.”