The U.S. Census Bureau has asked some of the country’s biggest tech companies to help stop the spread of “fake news” campaigns that could potentially disrupt the upcoming 2020 count.
According to Census officials and multiple sources, Reuters reported that the request comes after data and cybersecurity experts warned that right-wing groups and foreign actors will probably utilize “fake news” to stop immigrants from participating in the census.
The anonymous sources cited evidence that included a boost in chatter on platforms like “4chan” by domestic and foreign networks that want to undermine the survey because it helps form U.S. election districts, as well as determine where more than $800 billion a year in federal spending goes.
Ron Jarmin, deputy director and COO of the Census Bureau, revealed that the bureau has been working on a plan to take on these fake news campaigns, and expects “[the census] will be a target for those sorts of efforts in 2020.”
In fact, Census Bureau officials have been talking to tech companies since 2017 to discuss ways to prevent the spread of misinformation, with the most recent meeting happening last week, Jarmin said. So far, the bureau has received initial commitments from Facebook, Google and Twitter.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone confirmed that the social media giant has been in meetings with the bureau, but would not give details about what the company has agreed to do. Twitter and Google declined to comment.
Census Bureau officials are also trying to control census look-alike websites, which could be used by the wrong people to dissuade immigrants and other members of the population from responding to the survey.
“We came up with a list of 20 to 30 URLs that we wanted to make sure we owned,” said Census spokesman Stephen Buckner, who explained that the bureau did the same before the 2010 count “to mitigate confusion about where to go.”