Facebook has removed ads from President Trump’s re-election campaign, citing violations of its policy that bans misinformation about the U.S. Census.
The ad in question began running Facebook on March 2 and 3, according to Facebook’s ad library. It was paid for by the “Trump Make America Great Again Committee”, a part of the official re-election fundraising efforts.
NEW: @Facebook is allowing President Trump’s reelection campaign to run ads directing users to a form that’s not the official #2020Census but called the “Official 2020 Congressional District Census,” as reported in @JuddLegum‘s Popular Information👇https://t.co/IEKKFzxIDz pic.twitter.com/uYLpHkh4u4
— Hansi Lo Wang • 6️⃣ DAYS (@hansilowang) March 5, 2020
The majority of ads were displayed under 2,000 times. Some, however, reached “tens of thousands,” the Guardian reported.
The ad invited users to answer “the Official 2020 Congressional District Census.” Clicking on the ad would send Facebook users to action.donaldjtrump.com, a GOP fundraising site, where they would be asked to provide personal information, such as their phone numbers, after answering several questions, such as:
“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?”
The website’s terms say that “by providing your phone number, you are consenting to receive calls and SMS/MMS messages, including autodialed and automated calls and texts, to that number from each of the participating committees in the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, Donald J Trump for President and the Republican National Committee.”
Facebook’s policy, announced in December last year, doesn’t allow any information that could mislead people about the time, location, or how they can take part in the U.S. Census this year. The platform said it’ll also ban ads that encourage people not to participate.
Facebook’s response: When reached for comment, Facebook noted that they have a policy in place that forbids such ads. “There are policies in place to prevent confusion around the official U.S. Census and this is an example of those being enforced,” Facebook spokesman Kevin McAlister said in a statement Thursday.
BREAKING: I just received an email from Facebook saying they will remove Trump’s deceptive census ads.@civilrightsorg worked hard with Facebook to put a robust census interference policy in place. Trump’s ads clearly violated that policy & should have been removed immediately.
— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) March 5, 2020
“Upon further review, these ads are currently being taken down given the policies in place to prevent confusion around the official U.S. Census,” Facebook said.
Despite taking action now, after the ads were flagged by civil rights advocates, Facebook still approved the ad to be posted on the platform in the first place. What’s more, Facebook initially claimed that the ad didn’t violate its rules because it makes a reference to the president’s campaign.
House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) criticized Facebook as well. “I know the profit motive is their business model. But it should not come at the cost of counting who is in our country so that we can provide the services and the rest,” she said at a press conference.
The U.S. Census is scheduled to begin in mid-March which prompted critics to believe that the Trump campaign ad may confuse some Facebook users. The census takes place 10 years.