Facebook and Instagram ban census-related misinformation

This time it even applies to politicians.

NurPhoto/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Facebook has announced a ban on misleading information relating to the 2020 U.S. census. The crackdown, which also applies to Instagram, covers ads and other content that misrepresents info needed to participate in the census, including dates, locations, and times, and that which misrepresents government involvement.

Swaying somewhat from its current hands-off stance on political ads, Facebook says the new census interference policy will apply to content posted by politicians, even if it could be considered newsworthy.

Misleading political ads not related to the census still seem to be fair game, though.

Mistruth hurts — Facebook announced the new policy in a blog post published on Thursday. The company says it will begin enforcing the rules next month, using “a combination of technology and people to proactively identify content that may violate this policy.”

Per Facebook, the census interference policy specifically prohibits:

  • Misrepresentation of the dates, locations, times and methods for census participation;
  • Misrepresentation of who can participate in the census and what information must be provided;
  • 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.

Any content flagged as potentially violating the new policy will be reviewed by Facebook’s team and removed if that’s found to be the case. “And as with voter interference, content that violates our census interference policy will not be allowed to remain on our platforms as newsworthy even if posted by a politician," Facebook says.

But lying is still ok sometimes — In some cases, Facebook says it may decide to — brace yourself — leave inaccurate posts on the platform. What a surprise. "Content that does not violate this policy, but may still be inaccurate, will be eligible for fact-checking by our third-party partners and, if rated false, will have more prominent labels and will be ranked lower in News Feed," Facebook says.

"We will also fight against potential misinformation by sharing accurate, non-partisan information about how to participate in the census in consultation with the US Census Bureau." Well, it's something, I guess.