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Harris presses Facebook over census misinformation policies after misleading Trump ads

Harris presses Facebook over census misinformation policies after misleading Trump ads
© Greg Nash

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden officially clinches Electoral College votes with California certification Hillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Trump campaigns as wild card in Georgia runoffs MORE (D-Calif.) is pressing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over how the social media giant intends to handle census-related misinformation after Facebook allowed President Trump's reelection campaign to run misleading advertisements about the important demographics survey this week. 

In a letter to Zuckerberg on Thursday, Harris criticized Facebook for its "failure" to enforce its own policies barring misinformation about the U.S. census. Harris, who recently dropped out of the Democratic presidential race, posed a series of questions around how Facebook plans to combat census misinformation in the future.

"I hope you recognize that Facebook’s ability to effectively combat misinformation during the 2020 Census will presage your ability to combat similar misinformation during the upcoming elections," Harris wrote.

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Harris is only the latest Democrat to slam Facebook for running the misleading Trump ads, which redirected users searching for the "Official 2020 Congressional District Census" to the Trump campaign website. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday slammed the social media giant over the ads, which were first reported by political newsletter Popular Information. 

"This is, on the part of Facebook, a robust unacceptable interference in the census," Pelosi said at a press conference Thursday. 

"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," she continued. "The beautiful diversity of America is what this administration fears, they want it undercounted. They're misrepresenting on Facebook and Facebook is saying that this misrepresentation is consistent with their policies."

Facebook later announced it will remove the misleading "census" ads, saying they violated Facebook's policies barring all posts that include misleading information about the U.S. census. 

"There are policies in place to prevent confusion around the official U.S. census and this is an example of those being enforced," a Facebook spokesperson said.

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Harris's letter does not mention Facebook's decision to remove the ads.

"We have received Sen. Harris’s letter and look forward to clarifying the policies Facebook has in place to prevent confusion around the official U.S. census," a Facebook company spokesperson said on Friday.

Civil rights activists have warned that social media platforms can be manipulated to stoke fears around the U.S. census, potentially resulting in the disenfranchisement of minorities including Latinos and African Americans. 

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg previously said the company will treat this year's "census like an election — with people, policies and technology in place to protect against census interference."