CAPAC Members Ask Facebook For Update on Combatting Census Disinformation

Nov 7, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Today, Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) sent a letter to Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg requesting a briefing regarding Facebook’s efforts to combat interference and disinformation on its platform pertaining to the 2020 Decennial Census. The letter, which was led by CAPAC Chair Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC First Vice Chair Grace Meng (NY-06), and Senator Brian Schatz (HI), follows the 2016 election where Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and other communities of color were intentionally targeted with false and misleading information on Facebook. CAPAC leaders Reps. Chu and Meng issued the following statements:

Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair:

“An accurate census is so vital to our democracy that the Founders put it in the Constitution. We need an accurate census to understand who is in our country, where they live, and what they need. But to ensure an accurate count, we must ensure respondents have access to accurate information. Unfortunately, President Trump has already tried to undermine the census by attempting to include an untested citizenship question that would have suppressed responses from Asian Americans and other immigrant communities. Thankfully that was struck down by the Supreme Court, but confusion around the census still threatens an accurate count.

“With almost 60% of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) adults on Facebook, we want to ensure vital measures are being taken to prevent disinformation from being used to discourage AAPI participation. That is why we are asking Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to brief CAPAC Members on what Facebook is doing to prevent the disinformation campaigns that targeted vulnerable communities in 2016 from occurring during the 2020 Decennial Census. I want to thank CAPAC Vice Chair Rep. Meng for her leadership to ensure that our caucus prioritizes this important issue and for co-leading this letter with me. We must do all that we can to ensure a fair and accurate 2020 Census.”

Rep. Grace Meng (NY-06), CAPAC First Vice Chair:

“Our community is over 6 million strong, and as the fastest growing ethnic group in the country, we have so much at stake with the upcoming 2020 Decennial Census. We must ensure the most accurate count. As the only AAPI on the House Appropriations Committee that is responsible for funding the Census Bureau, I am fighting for the strongest funding amount – and to make sure we have clear and extensive oversight over census activities. At the same time, we need strong allies outside the federal government in making sure to curb interference or disinformation to discourage AAPI participation in the 2020 Census. With less than six months to Census Day on April 1, 2020, CAPAC must be briefed on Facebook’s efforts to prevent malicious campaigns on its platform, and what it is doing to promote participation.”

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

November 7, 2019

Dear Ms. Sandberg:

As Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), we write to request a briefing from you regarding Facebook’s efforts to combat interference and disinformation on its platform in the upcoming 2020 Decennial Census, and what steps are being taken to promote the census. CAPAC is comprised of 74 Members of Congress who represent the voices and interests of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community throughout our nation. Ensuring all AAPIs are counted in the 2020 Decennial Census promotes our communities’ advancement and equality in American life.

The decennial census is a once-in-a-decade task mandated by the U.S. Constitution that requires an accurate count of every person living in the United States, regardless of their citizenship status. Data from the census is used to reapportion congressional seats and create formulas that direct over $800 billion in federal dollars to states and local governments. An accurate count is essential to ensuring equitable distribution of federal dollars to support critical social safety net programs and to fund new roads, hospitals, schools, and other public sector investments. During the census enumeration, however, certain hard-to-count (HTC) populations are more likely than others to be missed.

Specifically, communities of color, people with limited English proficiency, low-income individuals, and young children are often undercounted in the census. As such, we are deeply concerned that the AAPI community, which is already vulnerable to being undercounted, will be susceptible to misinformation and dissuasion tactics by nefarious actors who wish to undermine our democracy.

According to a 2018 report by the Nielsen Company, 59% of surveyed Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are 18 years or older reported using Facebook. This data point illustrates the massive impact of Facebook and the information that is spread on its platform. In this regard, we believe Facebook can be an invaluable partner in ensuring an accurate census enumeration. Having publicly stated your intent to put “people, policies, and technology in place to protect against census interference” and push back on misinformation campaigns, we look forward to engaging with you and your team to ensure that AAPIs and other vulnerable communities are not targeted by malicious actors on your platform.

We appreciate Facebook’s efforts to learn from the 2016 presidential election and to prevent similar interference from occurring during the 2020 Decennial Census. We believe Facebook will play a critical role in maintaining the integrity of the 2020 Decennial Census operation by swiftly addressing any interference or disinformation campaigns. We hope to hear from you about these efforts and how Facebook will protect its users, notably the AAPI community.

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

 

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The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of 74 Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and Members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Current