At first, Facebook allowed ads suggesting users "take the official 2020 Congressional District Census today." But the link had nothing to do with the census; it took users to a survey on the "Certified Website of President Donald J. Trump," the Washington Post reports. The survey then took users' information and asked them for a donation. Although Facebook has rolled out a policy against allowing misleading references to the census, per the Post, the company announced it would permit these Trump ads. Then House speaker Nancy Pelosi held a news conference Thursday. "I am particularly annoyed today at the actions of Facebook," she said, adding that the ad says, "Fill this out, this is a census form," though it's not. "It is an absolute lie, a lie that is consistent with the misrepresentation policy of Facebook," the Democratic speaker said. "But now they are messing with who we are as Americans."
Hours later, Facebook flipped. The ads violate company policy about confusing content involving the census after all. "We conducted a further review," a spokesman said. The ads had appeared on the Facebook pages of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, per Politico. The ads were much like surveys that have been mailed out by the Republican National Committee, per the Post; those surveys also are requests for donations but appear to be census forms. The leader of a civil rights group that helped spur the new policy in December, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, welcomed Facebook's change of heart Thursday. "While we're gratified that Facebook shut down Trump's attempt to sow confusion about how and when to participate in the 2020 census, it's disturbing that the ads weren't immediately removed," Vanita Gupta said. (Read more Facebook stories.)