Census Bureau Enlists Help of Tech Giants to Fight Disinformation: Report

March 27, 2019, 5:12 PM UTC

The U.S. Census Bureau is enlisting the help of Silicon Valley tech giants to fight disinformation campaigns ahead of the 2020 Census.

Reuters reports the bureau has asked Google, Facebook, and Twitter for help fighting fake news campaigns, which they believe will target the 2020 Census. An unnamed source told Reuters there is already evidence to suggest this will be the case, including “chatter on platforms like 4chan by domestic and foreign networks keen to undermine the survey.”

Deputy director of the Census Bureau, Ron Jarmin, noted the Census could be targeted “through attempts to get them to not participate, either by scaring them or telling them it’s not important, or that something they had already done—like paying their taxes—had completed the Census.”

He confirmed the bureau has met with these companies, but did not provide any detail as to how Census plans to counter disinformation. He told Reuters simply that “there were some hits from those meetings [with the tech companies], and some things that didn’t pan out.”

In addition to the support Census is soliciting from tech companies, it is reportedly buying up domain names that could be used as Census look-alike websites. Census spokesman Stephen Buckner explained the bureau has come up with a list of dozens of URLs it wants to ensure it owns ahead of the next Census, so people aren’t able to use them to dissuade American citizens from responding to the statistical survey, conducted every 10 years.

Among its uses, results of the Census go toward allocating the number of seats per state in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to population.

There are already concerns around non-participation in the upcoming census due to the Trump administration’s plan to put a question about citizenship on the survey. Two federal judges have rejected the decision to include the question, and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.