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Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads falsely claiming to be the "official" census

Facebook said Thursday it will take down advertisements from President Trump's campaign that falsely present a survey on the campaign's website as an "official" 2020 census survey. Facebook made the announcement after initially allowing more than 1,000 of the ads to remain online. 

The ads urge supporters to take what it calls the "Official 2020 Congressional District Census." One of the ads says the survey is "ESSENTIAL to our team's 2020 strategy," and calls it a "national effort (to) provide us with detailed data we need for YOUR CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT." 

The ads appeared on Facebook just days before households across the U.S. will start receiving official mail from the Census Bureau about the actual 2020 census.

Facebook said it would take down Trump campaign ads that falsely claimed to be "official" 2020 census surveys. Trump campaign ad

The ads started running this week on the Facebook pages for Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, and are paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee. 

The newsletter Popular Information first reported on the ads and said Facebook initially refused to take them down. A few hours after Popular Information's story was posted, Facebook reversed its decision.

The ads do not link to any official government form or anything relating to the 2020 U.S. census. Instead, they lead to an opinion survey on President Trump's campaign website, which is labeled: "OFFICIAL 2020 CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT CENSUS." 


Questions on the survey include:

Do you think Nancy Pelosi and the Radical Left are putting their personal anti-Trump agenda ahead of what's best for the American people?

Do you approve or disapprove of the Democrats' big government socialist agenda?

Do you think that Democrats' failed Impeachment Witch Hunt against President Trump will actually end up helping his chances of winning in November?

The campaign survey also includes a question about whether respondents support adding a citizenship question to the U.S. census — something the Trump administration attempted to do but was blocked by the Supreme Court.

After filling out the form, users are asked to donate to the president's reelection campaign. 

Popular Information reported that Facebook at first said the ads didn't violate its policies because they are campaign ads and not about the official U.S. census. But Facebook reversed course a few hours later and said the ads would come down. 

"There are policies in place to prevent confusion around the official U.S. Census and this is an example of those being enforced," the company said in a statement to CBS News. Facebook's policy communications manager Andy Stone also posted it on Twitter.

On Friday, the ads were listed as inactive in Facebook's Ad Library and replaced with a label reading, "This ad was taken down because it goes against Facebook Advertising Policies."

The decision also came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose San Francisco district has a Facebook office, blasted the social media giant for allowing the ads.

"I'm particularly annoyed today at the actions of Facebook," she said at her weekly press conference, calling the Trump ads "a lie that is consistent with the misrepresentation policy of Facebook."

"But now they're messing with who we are as Americans," she added. "I know the profit motive that is their business model. But it should not come at the cost of counting who is in our country."

Facebook came under fire last year for its decision to not take down political ads with false information. But the company said it would take a harsher stance on misinformation about the U.S. census. 

Facebook announced a new policy in December banning "misleading information about when and how to participate in the census and the consequences of participating." It also said it would prohibit ads that "portray census participation as useless or meaningless or advise people not to participate in the census."

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