Report: Tech giants helping Census Bureau counter disinformation threats

The U.S. Census Bureau is enlisting the help of Silicon Valley to help detect and fight disinformation campaigns aimed at discouraging minorities from participating in the 2020 census, according to a Reuters report.

According to the report, which cites Census officials and other unnamed sources, Google, Twitter and Facebook have all agreed to help the bureau, though the details of the partnership are unclear.

Experts are worried that right-wing groups will employ an online disinformation campaign to scare immigrants and other minorities away from participating in the census, which could undermine the crucial government data that are used to draw congressional districts and allocate federal funding.

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The Census Bureau is staying tight-lipped about the steps it has taken to combat the potential efforts to skew the data, but Reuters reported that the agency is trying to buy up domain names with the word “census” in order to make sure it cuts down on potential imitators.

Ron Jarmin, the bureau’s deputy director, told Reuters that right-wing actors could try to influence potential census participants “mostly 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.”

“We expect that [the census] will be a target for those sorts of efforts in 2020,” Jarmin said.