Today is Census Day in the US — and it comes at a particularly difficult moment. Making sure that everyone gets counted is hard enough in normal times but during an unprecedented public health emergency it is a major challenge. People are understandably much more concerned about their health, their loved ones, and in many cases, their jobs and livelihoods.

But the census really matters. It has important and long-lasting implications — it determines everything from congressional representation to how federal funding for schools, highways, hospitals, fire stations and other resources are distributed. It is that funding — and the services it provides — that we rely on when crises hit.

Too often in our past, some communities and groups have been undercounted. That is completely unacceptable and we need to do everything in our power to make sure everyone can take part. The ability to complete the census online for the first time gives the technology sector a unique opportunity and responsibility to help make sure every person is counted. Here’s what Facebook is doing:

Helping Everyone Get Counted

We’ve partnered with the US Census Bureau and other nonprofits to help get out the count. 

Last week, we launched notifications at the top of Facebook and Instagram so when people visit their feeds, they see more information about the census and a reminder to complete it. More than 11 million people on Facebook and Instagram clicked through the notifications to the Census Bureau’s website where they can fill out the census.

Screenshots showing census prompts on Facebook and Instagram

We have been working with and supporting state and local governments to provide training in how to use digital tools. The Census Bureau also helped us identify civil rights organizations, nonprofit groups and others who are experts in reaching under-represented communities to receive these trainings. And we are supporting the Count All Kids campaign — created after more than 10% of young children were missed in the last census — so every child in this country gets the representation they deserve.

Protecting the Census from Interference

To make sure everyone is counted, we also need to stop efforts to suppress participation. We announced our census interference policies last December so that we could train our teams and our AI systems to find and remove violating content before counting began in earnest. We’re using our virtual Election Operations Center that brings together more than 40 subject matter experts from across the company for real-time monitoring for misinformation or abuse related to the election or census. The team is made up of specialists from our threat intelligence, data science, software engineering, research, community operations and legal teams. They’re trained to quickly investigate spikes in misinformation, hate speech, or census or voter suppression — and take action when warranted.

We’re also equipping agencies and organizations with tools to more quickly identify and flag potentially suppressive content. CrowdTangle is a Facebook tool to track how public content spreads online, which we’re providing to local officials, the Census Bureau and partners they helped us identify. They’ll get full access, dedicated support and training for free so they can monitor for potential misinformation and suppressive content. We’ll also provide Public Live Displays for all 50 states to help people track census content on the local level, just as we have for local elections. 

We know that people directly involved in running the census may be targeted by hackers and foreign adversaries, so we’re working with Census Bureau officials to further secure their accounts through enrollment in Facebook Protect. This program requires them to turn on two-factor authentication and provides additional monitoring for hacking. 

We’re grateful for the partnership from the Census Bureau and other experts and advocacy groups, including civil rights groups, that have made us more capable in promoting an accurate and fair census. In the coming months, we will continue to encourage everyone to complete the census and stop people from abusing our platforms. 

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