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Facebook Removes Misleading Trump Census Ads

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WASHINGTON — Facebook said on Thursday that it had removed misleading ads run by President Trump’s re-election campaign about the 2020 census, in a stand against disinformation ahead of the decennial population count that begins next week.

Earlier this week, Trump Make America Great Again, a joint fund-raising arm of Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and the Republican National Committee, started running ads on the social media site that Facebook said could have caused confusion about the timing of the census.

“President Trump needs you to take the Official 2020 Congressional District Census today. We need to hear from you before the most important election in American history,” the ad said. The campaign asked followers to “respond NOW” to help our campaign messaging strategy, with an appeal to text “TRUMP to 8022.”

The Census Bureau will not begin to survey the public for its population survey until next week. The ad linked the census to the Trump campaign, a misrepresentation of the official government survey, said civil rights groups.

The census has become another disinformation test for social media companies. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have come under pressure for their handling of political speech and what has been a piecemeal approach to policing their platforms. Candidates in this year’s presidential election are expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on political ads, and the companies have already struggled to enforce consistent policies.

Facebook has taken the most permissive — and most criticized — approach to political speech, allowing candidates and their campaigns to post misleading information and target those messages to specific audiences.

When Mr. Trump posted an altered video of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Facebook and Twitter refused to take the video down. A 30-second video ad on Facebook in October also falsely accused former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. of blackmailing Ukrainian officials to stop an investigation of his son.

But Facebook said on Thursday that the Trump campaign’s message violated its policy against interference in the census, an important survey and population count used to draw electoral maps. Facebook bars the misrepresentation of dates, locations, times and methods for census participation.

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

President Trump’s re-election campaign declined to comment on the ads.

The decision to remove the ads was an exception to Facebook’s lenient political speech policy. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said last fall in a speech at Georgetown University that his company would not arbitrate the harms of speech from political leaders. The speech drew strong criticism from civil rights groups and some Democrats.

Facebook does maintain some exceptions to its policy on political speech, including a ban on hate speech and speech that could interfere with the census.

Civil rights groups, which have been warning Facebook about the possibility of disinformation around the census, alerted Facebook to the misleading ads Wednesday evening. Judd Legum, a reporter for the newsletter Popular Information, first reported about the ads by Mr. Trump’s campaign.

At first, Facebook declined to remove Mr. Trump’s campaign ads on the census, according to Mr. Legum and Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference Education Fund. Ms. Gupta said she communicated over email on Thursday morning with Mr. Zuckerberg and Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. The company changed its position by Thursday afternoon, she said.

Ms. Gupta has warned that the social network could be a target for misinformation on census information, a concern among civil rights leaders, who fear a miscount of the population could affect districting for voters and lead to voter suppression.

“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,” Ms. Gupta said in a statement. “We will continue to hold Facebook accountable to enforce it. Nothing should distract from making sure everyone gets counted.”

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Other civil rights leaders said the delay in action by Facebook showed weakness in its own enforcement. They added that the social media network was not being proactive enough and had placed the burden on the public to inform them about abuses on the site.

“While Facebook has now committed to removing the misinforming post in question, the damage is done,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, a civil rights group. “Going forward, harmful and misleading ads must be flagged in a pre-posting review process, not after they’ve hit hundreds, if not thousands, of news feeds,”

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5 Effective Ways to Run Facebook Ads A/B Tests

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Facebook Ads A/B Tests or split tests help them try different versions of ads with various campaign elements. This process helps them arrive at the best version for the organization’s target. 

A/B Tests offer a vast pool of resources to try out various versions. You may get caught up and lose your way to arriving at the best version in a limited time. To better understand this topic you can read the Facebook ad testing guide. Here are five effective ways to run Facebook Ads A/B Tests-

1) Start with the minimal number of variables

This approach will help you analyze the impact of a variable much better. The lesser the variables, the better will be the relevant results and more conclusive. Once you have various versions, you will need to run them through the A/B Significance Test to determine if the test results are valid.

2) The second way is to select the correct structure. 

There are two structures in A/B tests. One is a single ad test, and the other is multiple single variation ad sets. All the variations will go under one ad set in the first structure. Each variation will be under a separate ad set in the second one. Out of the two, the second one works out to be better and gives better results.

3) Use of spreadsheets is important to stay organized. 

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These spreadsheets help collect and analyze data to get meaningful insights and arrive at data-backed decisions.

4) Do target advertising and set realistic time goals. 

One approach is to choose an entirely new set of audiences. Also, the data pool should be vast and not the same as some existing campaigns. The reason for choosing a different audience is that Facebook may mix up your ads and give contaminated output. 

Another approach to choosing the right audience is to pick geography. It works better, especially when you have business in a particular region.   

It’s also essential to set a realistic timeline for your testing. Facebook suggests one should run a test for at least four days, but you can choose to run the test for up to 30 days.   

5) Set an ideal budget. 

The concept of a perfect budget is subjective. But, you can fix it yourself, or Facebook can do that for you based on your testing data. A large part of the test budget is spent on avoiding audience duplication. If the same audience sees variations, it could affect the test results.

Besides these top five effective ideas, you will need to take a few more action points to make the testing process efficient. Make sure you put the website’s domain link and not the landing page link in the ad, as that doesn’t look good. Put appropriate Call To Action Button, such as ‘Learn More,’ ‘Buy Now,’ etc. It’s also important to see how your ad is coming across on various electronic gadgets- mobile, tablets, etc.

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Another strategy that works is trying to engage the customer. You may add social engagement buttons such as ‘Like’ or ‘Comment.’ Use high-resolution images as they work better with the customers. Low-quality, highly edited images are often not liked and trusted by the consumers.

You can learn more about the audience behavior patterns with A/B test results. Conducting these tests on Facebook streamlines the entire process and makes it smooth for you. With the test results, advertisers and marketers can work on the creatives they need to utilize.

To sum it up, you can run an effective A/B test campaign within the specified budget. You don’t need to spend massive amounts to get your advertisement right. You’ll make the correct assumptions about the performance of variations with a good understanding of business and consumers.

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