US Census 2020: Deceptive Facebook ads

In the context of the upcoming US 2020 census, Popular Information released an investigation last week into Donald Trump’s deceptive census ads on Facebook. It was revealed how Donald Trump’s campaign had been running 1000 ads a day, encouraging Facebook users to “take the census today” even though the census hadn’t begun yet. Popular Info affirmed that these ads were a ploy to collect personal information from citizens and persuade them to make a donation to Trump’s campaign. Only last December, Facebook had announced a new policy banning “misleading information about when and how to participate in the census and the consequences of participating”. However, on the basis of these ads containing references to Trump’s reelection campaign, Facebook initially refused to take them down, before eventually reversing course.

European actions against disinfo: What are the stakeholders saying?

To complement the forthcoming European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP), the European Commission has launched a €5.1 million package to enhance media freedom and pluralism in Europe. In this vein, Euractiv reported how media stakeholders are calling for more cross over between the EDAP and the Digital Services Act. “The media, advertising and platforms ecosystem needs to be rebalanced,” according to Euractiv’s Christophe Leclercq. At the same time, the digital rights organisation Access Now has published 26 policy recommendations on content governance, advocating for states to create meaningful transparency and accountability obligations and for platforms to strengthen their public evaluations of content moderation and curation decisions and share these findings with civil society. In related news, Carnegie Endowment also released a briefing note intended for the EU Commission on the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation. 

Coronavirus infodemic

  • How information on the coronavirus is managed on Chinese social media: According to this investigation, WeChat and YY censored coronavirus content, including criticism towards the government, rumours and speculative information on the epidemic, and neutral references to Chinese government efforts. 
  • In a post on his Facebook page, Mark Zuckerberg pledged to stem the flow of coronavirus misinformation on Facebook by giving the World Health Organisation unlimited ad credits to provide accurate information on the coronavirus to users.

Good reads

  • A recent Daily Beast piece has drawn attention to an obscure iOS app named Portable.TV that claims to be a “one-of-a-kind free streaming service & TV library of news programmes,” which has a “uniquely global perspective [that] foregrounds marginalised or dissident viewpoints to give you a clearer picture of the world”. Intriguingly, this app turned out to be managed by RT America.
  • In light of the US policy debate on online platform liability, The Verge has detailed everything you need to know about section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, including “what it is, what it isn’t, why it’s controversial, and how it might be changed”.


  • Echo Chambers Exist! (But They’re Full of Opposing Views): This new study looks into the existence of online echo chambers and surprisingly finds that echoes are actually the sound of opposing views being undermined and marginalised by the community. The authors note that “echo chambers exist thanks to the unifying presence of oppositional viewpoints”.
  • new study on news disclaimers finds that labelling stories online as “false” unintendedly makes news consumers more readily believe other stories that also may turn out to be false. If you’re looking for a summary, Science Daily has it for us.

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