- Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram are going on the offensive ahead of the 2020 United States census, which collects demographic information from hundreds of millions of Americans.
- The social media giant said it would ban “misleading information about when and how to participate in the census and the consequences of participating.”
- Moreover, in a subtle alteration of the company’s policy of not fact-checking or banning political advertisements, Facebook said it would not allow advertisements that “portray census participation as useless or meaningless, or advise people not to participate in the census.”
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Facebook and Instagram are going on the offensive ahead of the 2020 United States census.
In a letter published on Thursday morning, the social media giants declared a new policy focused on keeping “misleading information about when and how to participate in the census, and the consequences of participating” off their platforms.
The policy applies to individual users as well as all advertisements run on both social networks.
Facebook, which owns Facebook and Instagram, set up a five point test to determine potential violations:
- “Misrepresentation of the dates, locations, times and methods for census participation;
- Misrepresentation of who can participate in the census and what information and/or materials must be provided in order to participate;
- Content stating that census participation may or will result in law enforcement consequences;
- Misrepresentation of government involvement in the census, including that an individual’s census information will be shared with another government agency; and
- Calls for coordinated interference that would affect an individual’s ability to participate in the census, enforcement of which often requires additional information and context.”
Notably, this policy applies to both individual users and advertisers – including politicians, who regularly use Facebook and Instagram to reach millions of US voters.
Facebook took a hard stance on not fact-checking or banning political advertising, with the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, repeatedly making impassioned arguments in favour of the company’s decision in the second half of 2019.
“We don’t fact-check political ads,” Zuckerberg said in a wide-ranging speech at Georgetown University in mid-October. “We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying. And if content is newsworthy, we also won’t take it down even if it would otherwise conflict with many of our standards.”
But if politicians include lies or misinformation about the 2020 US census, Facebook and Instagram will apparently make an exception to their policies on political speech.
“As with voter interference,” the letter says, “content that violates our census interference policy will not be allowed to remain on our platforms as newsworthy even if posted by a politician.”
The policy doesn’t go into effect immediately – the initiative kicks off next month, and employs a mix of human and computerised oversight, including a supervisor who Facebook describes as “a consultant with census expertise.”