Facebook to tackle efforts to interfere with 2020 US census

Facebook says it will clamp down on efforts to use its services to interfere with the 2020 U.S. census

SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook says it will clamp down on efforts to use its services to interfere with the 2020 U.S. census, including the posting of misleading information about when and how to participate, who can participate and what happens to people who do.

The social media giant said Thursday that it is also prohibiting advertisements that portray taking part in the census as “useless or meaningless" or that encourage people not to participate.

Facebook and other social media companies have similar policies around voter suppression, banning misleading information about when and where to vote, for instance.

False and inaccurate information is already circulating online about the census. For example, posts in neighborhood chat groups warned that robbers were scamming their way into people’s homes by asking to check residents’ identification for the census. That was a hoax, but it left Census Bureau officials scrambling to get the posts removed from Facebook.

Facebook has been under fire for its policy of not fact checking political advertisements on its service, which critics say allows politicians to lie and then pay Facebook to amplify their lies. The company says that all ads on its service are subject to its community standards, which now include the census interference policy. False information doesn’t always violate the community standards, however.

Google is also trying to prevent misinformation about the census from spreading. It set up a team to focus on preventing hoaxes and misleading information, and expanded a YouTube policy to make it clear that misinformation about the census is prohibited on the site and will be taken down.

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Mae Anderson reported from New York. AP Technology Writer Rachel Lerman in San Francisco contributed to this story.