Sending Office: Honorable Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Please sign our letter asking Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey to share Twitter’s plan to prevent interference in our upcoming national count. As social media platforms continue to face interference attempts in our elections, these platforms must
also be prepared for efforts to impede our 2020 Census. Through our census every ten years, the United States Government determines where to allocate congressional districts and over $800 billion in federal spending. Misinformation campaigns to discourage
certain demographic groups from participating in our census threaten an accurate count, which could have profound implications over the subsequent decade and beyond.
The Census Bureau is taking this threat seriously by hiring specialists to build local awareness of the census. The Census Bureau is also seeking to collaborate with social media platforms to prevent interference or misinformation campaigns.
In response to the Census Bureau, Facebook has stated that it is treating the upcoming census “like an election” and has promised to ban census misinformation campaigns. Facebook has vowed to put “people, policies, and technology in place to protect against
Census interference.” We intend to follow the enactment of these promised census interference efforts carefully.
However, Twitter has made no such commitment. As the other main social media platform used by the the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and other nefarious actors to sow disinformation in 2016, we are asking Twitter to lay out its plan to combat census disinformation.
Banning false census information and making significant improvements in the moderation of suspected automated bot accounts will help ensure public trust in our census.
Bill Pascrell, Jr. Frank Pallone, Jr.
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Carolyn B. Maloney Tom Malinowski
Member of Congress Member of Congress
October XX, 2019
Chief Executive Officer
1355 Market Street, Suite 900
San Francisco, CA, 94103
Dear Mr. Dorsey:
We write to express our concerns about Twitter being used to spread disinformation related to the upcoming 2020 Census, and to request information about how your company is guarding against this threat. As you know, during the 2016 presidential campaign,
Twitter was used by malicious actors for the purpose of manipulating the American electorate. Any attempt by a nefarious actor, foreign or domestic, to unduly influence our democracy is an affront to our nation and its people. As social media platforms continue
to face interference attempts in our elections, these platforms must also be prepared for efforts to undermine our upcoming 2020 Census.
Through our census every ten years, the United States Government determines where to allocate congressional districts and over $800 billion in annual federal spending. Misinformation campaigns to discourage any American, including targeted demographic groups,
from participating in our national count would be an attack on our democracy with potentially far-reaching consequences for decades to come. We believe social media platforms must do more and do better than was done in 2016 to deter and mitigate interference
in our upcoming count.
As Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller described in Volume I of his ‘Report on Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election’, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), an arm of the Russian Government, carried out a concerted propaganda campaign primarily
through Facebook and Twitter during the 2016 presidential campaign. In the course of their interference of our national politics, the IRA “purchased advertisements from Facebook that promoted the IRA groups on the newsfeeds of U.S. audience members” (p. 25)
and “made over 80,000 posts before their deactivation … and these posts reached at least 29 million U.S persons” (p. 26). Further, “IRA-controlled Twitter accounts separately had tens of thousands of followers, including multiple U.S. political figures who
retweeted IRA-created content” (p. 15) and they “operated a network of automated Twitter accounts that enabled the IRA to amplify existing content on Twitter” (p. 26). Similar tactics to discourage participation in our national count must be anticipated and
moderated without delay.
The Census Bureau is taking this threat seriously by hiring specialists to build local awareness surrounding the census and is seeking to collaborate with social media platforms to prevent a redux of the 2016 presidential election. Facebook has promised
to ban misinformation campaigns surrounding the census and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg committed to put “people, policies, and technology in place to protect against Census interference” in a census protection plan that Facebook intends to finalize
later this year. We will follow the enactment of these promised census interference efforts carefully.
You stated in testimony before the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce on September 5, 2018, “abuse, malicious automation, and manipulation detracts from the health of our platform” and that “[w]e are committed to hold ourselves publicly
accountable towards progress” (p. 1). It is vitally important that you follow through on your promise for Twitter to do better. As a platform historically vulnerable to coordinated interference campaigns, Twitter must, as Facebook has, lay out its plan to
combat census disinformation and allocate people and resources to carry it out. Banning false census information and making significant improvements in the moderation of suspected automated bot accounts will help ensure public trust in our 2020 Census. We
request that you share your plan to prevent census interference with policymakers and provide updates on its implementation ahead of the census.
We appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response.
cc: Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Executive Officer, Facebook
Mr. Steven T. Dillingham, Director, U.S. Census Bureau
e-Dear Colleague version 2.0