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Facebook aims to ban census interference

Social media company says it removed 2.2 billion fake accounts in first quarter

Bloomberg

“An accurate census count is crucial to governments for functions like distributing federal funds and to businesses and researchers,” says Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer.
Bloomberg “An accurate census count is crucial to governments for functions like distributing federal funds and to businesses and researchers,” says Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer.

Facebook will ban content that misrepresents the 2020 U.S. census to suppress participation by minority communities, the latest step by the social media company to quell criticism from civil rights advocates.

Facing accusations that it hasn’t done enough to curb efforts aimed at discouraging minorities, Facebook said Sunday it’s developing a policy to be unveiled later this year that would prohibit distortions of census requirements, methods or logistics in postings.

The policy is among several changes Facebook announced in a report on its continuing civil rights audit, which is reviewing discrimination and biases on the social media platform.

The study was conducted by civil liberties advocate Laura Murphy and Relman, Dane and Colfax, a law firm handling anti-discrimination issues. A final report is due next year.

“An accurate census count is crucial to governments for functions like distributing federal funds and to businesses and researchers,” Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a blog post. “That’s why we’re going to treat next year’s census like an election — with people, policies and technology in place to protect against census interference.”

Tech companies including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have come under fire for not doing enough to curb disinformation, hate speech and terrorist propaganda.

Facebook removed 2.2 billion fake accounts in the first quarter, and takes down 65 percent of hate speech content, the company has said.

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Sandberg and other executives have been meeting with civil rights groups and politicians for months to discuss the audit in response to intense scrutiny in recent years for its content policies.

The company’s control over what users can share — and what they can’t — has been a key issue for those who believe Facebook has too much power. The company says it’s in the process of building a new oversight board that will review controversial decisions made by the company’s content moderators.

The company also said it’s created a civil rights task force made up of top corporate executives, senior leaders and other experts to address civil rights issues including concerns raised by outside groups. Sandberg will lead the task force.

Facebook released the report three days after the U.S. Supreme Court halted the Trump administration’s plan to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, prompting President Donald Trump to say he’ll explore trying to delay the survey that under law must be conducted next year.

Activists worry that states with large immigrant populations — such as Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas — could potentially lose out on federal funding, congressional districts or votes in the Electoral College if minorities are under counted.

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