This blog post was written by Ava Schwemler, Communications and Digital Engagement Coordinator at Philly Counts 

In 2020, for the first time ever, the U.S. Census Bureau will allow online responses to the census. Therefore, you will find census advertising on the Internet, particularly on social media.  As the census approaches, social media platforms could be used to spread misinformation and propaganda to derail census participation, threatening a decade of federal funding and Congress representation across the country.  

Census advocates and community organizations are concerned that rumors and propaganda will disproportionately affect immigrant groups and communities of color and deter census participation in these communities. So, what can you do to fight the spread of census misinformation on social media?  

  • Philadelphians can fight the spread of misinformation by sharing accurate information. Talk to your family, friends, and peers about the census, and use wisely your social media platforms to spread accurate information. 
  • If you find inaccurate census information, take action by reporting individual posts on the social media platform where they were found, or reporting the source directly to the U.S. Bureau. 

Know the facts

1. How to verify a mailing is from the Census Bureau:

If you receive a survey or a letter in the mail from the Census Bureau, the envelope contains information that will help you verify its legitimacy. For example:

  • “U.S. Census Bureau” in the return address or “U.S. Department of Commerce” which is the Census Bureau’s parent agency.
  • Jeffersonville, IN in the return address. The Census Bureau has a mail processing center located there.

Households will receive an invitation in the mail to complete the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail.  The enclosed envelope to mail back a completed paper questionnaire would be addressed to Jeffersonville, IN, or Phoenix, AZ.

2. U.S. Census Bureau workers will:

  • Have badges and briefcases indicating their affiliation with the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Introduce themselves as a U.S. Census Bureau employee, show their official government ID badge, and explain the purpose of the visit. 
  • Be equipped with an iPhone 8, supplied by the U.S. Census Bureau, and utilize an app to collect responses.

3. U.S. Census Bureau workers will NOT

  • Ask you to step outside of your home. 
  • Ask for your social security number, money, donations, or bank account information. 

4. The Questions:

The 2020 Census will collect basic information about your household and the people living in it. It has nine questions per individual in the household. The questionnaire takes about 10 minutes to complete, depending on the number of people in your household. Everyone is encouraged to fill out the census completely. If you do not answer all the questions, your form is still valid, but it is possible that a Census Taker will come by your residence to collect the missing information. See here a sample copy of the 2020 Census questionnaire.

5. The Concerns:

  • If you are not a U.S. citizen, you still count in the census. Please remember that the 2020 Census will not inquire about your citizenship or immigration status. 
  • Title 13, the same law that requires participation in the Census survey, states that the data collected by the census remains anonymous and is used for statistical purposes only. 
  • No one can access individual responses, meaning law enforcement agencies such as the DHS, ICE, FBI, or CIA, do not have access to your 2020 Census response.
  • For 72 years, the U.S. Census Bureau is required to keep your information confidential.

The Outcome

Accuracy is crucial in the 2020 Census. When every person is counted, we receive the federal funding we need to support our communities and the political representation we are entitled to. Completing the census form and encouraging others to do so is a way to ensure a brighter future in Philadelphia for our children and communities. It’s up to all of us to participate, fight misinformation, and spread awareness about the importance of the census!