11:13 GMT11 August 2020
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    In a report released last week, Facebook announced that it will be banning ads that discourage people from voting before the 2020 US presidential election as well as any content that misrepresents the US Census to prevent minority communities from participating in the survey, which is conducted every 10 years.

    “With both the US Census and the US presidential elections, 2020 will be [a] big year. An accurate census count is crucial to governments for functions like distributing federal funds and to businesses and researchers,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a blog post, also noting that it will be introducing a new policy in the fall “that protects against misinformation related to the census.” The policy will be implemented with the help of artificial intelligence as well as “non-partisan groups.”

    Under the Trump administration, the US Commerce Department has attempted to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, which it claims will help enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The last time the citizenship question was part of the census was in 1950. 

    However, in a 5-4 decision last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the US government cannot add a citizenship question to the census after stating that the Trump administration’s rationale for adding the question was inadequate. The decision has been sent back to the lower courts for additional consideration. 

    Facebook is also working to “ban ads that discourage people from voting.”

    “To protect elections, we have a team across product, engineering, data science, policy, legal and operations dedicated full time to these efforts,” Sandberg wrote, also noting that the new policy is in response to how ads were used on Facebook during the 2016 US elections.

    “It builds on the work we’ve done over the past year to prevent voter suppression and stay ahead of people trying to misuse our products,” she noted.

    In April 2018, Facebook announced that it had deleted 70 Facebook and 65 Instagram accounts, most of which used the Russian language, owned by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian group accused of interfering in the 2016 US presidential election and which has been indicted by the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller. In addition, 138 Facebook pages controlled by the IRA were also closed down. Many of those pages also ran ads, which were removed.

    “We focused on ads because there is a targeted component in them,” Facebook Public Policy Director Neil Potts said, Reuters reported. “We recognize it as a political tactic, which is much more in line with voter suppression.”


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