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Safety & Security

How Google and YouTube are working to protect the 2020 U.S. Census

Next year, as it has done every decade since 1790, the U.S. will carry out its constitutional duty to count the population of the United States. In 2020, for the first time, the census will offer individuals the option of completing the census online, in addition to completing it by mail or phone. With over 70 percent of U.S. households using the internet at home, and 80 percent using smartphones, this new format will allow more people to participate in the census next year. 

Yesterday, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and 41 of their Senate colleagues introduced a bipartisan resolution to ensure the census count is fair and accurate, and to urge participation by everyone, and Google is a strong supporter of the resolution.

To support the new online option, we’re working to connect people with useful and high-quality information about the census.  Building upon our ongoing work to protect the integrity of information and civic processes, this past March we established our 2020 U.S. Census Taskforce, a team to support the operations and security of the 2020 Census across Google and YouTube. Its primary objective is to prevent bad actors from abusing our services to spread misinformation, or to conduct fraudulent activity around the census such as phishing or other scams. We’ll provide regular updates on our efforts to the Census Bureau and other relevant organizations. Here's a look at some of the work we're doing on this front.

YouTube policies

YouTube expanded its existing deceptive practices policy to explicitly cover the census process. Videos and comments that aim to misinform viewers about the time, means or eligibility requirements for participating in the census are not allowed on YouTube.

Policies for ads on our platforms

Our policies already prohibit ads that contain misleading uses of official government sites or agency names, or attempt to mimic the layout and design of an official government agency site. Last month we clarified this policy to explicitly prohibit ads featuring incorrect information about how to participate in the census.  

Security protections for Gmail and Chrome

Every day, Gmail blocks more than 100 million phishing emails and Google Safe Browsing helps protect more than 4 billion devices against dangerous sites. Our team is working to ensure that legitimate emails from the Census Bureau are delivered, and to block phishing attempts (such as attempts to drive users to fake census websites, or to hand over personal information or account information). Security tools like Safe Browsing in Chrome are turned on by default, and can warn people of compromised sites related to the census.

Access to authoritative information on Search

Search is designed to surface relevant results from the most authoritative sources available. As part of our efforts to tackle disinformation and stay ahead of the malicious actors that propagate it, we’re improving our systems and elevating authoritative information, particularly for important areas like civics and news.

Engagement with partner organizations

We’ll share actionable information with other companies, law enforcement and the U.S. Census Bureau to help investigate, identify and resolve relevant issues. The U.S. Census Bureau is joining the YouTube Trusted Flagger program so it can augment our efforts by quickly notifying YouTube of census-related content that violates our policies. 

Transparency for government information on Play

To promote transparency about the sources of government information communicated through apps on the Google Play Store, a recent policy update now requires apps that communicate government information but are not affiliated with a government entity to provide users the source(s) of this information. Census partners will need to provide the sources of any census related information they provide in their app and make clear the nature of their relationship with the census.

As other countries make a similar shift to an online census, we hope the work we’re doing for the 2020 Census in the United States will be a strong foundation on which to build.

You can learn more about the count by visiting the U.S. Census Bureau’s official website.

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