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Every 10 years, everyone in the United States gets counted in the census, or at least they should be. This is difficult at the best of times, but during an unprecedented public health emergency it is even more challenging. Today is National Census Day and it comes at a time when many people are worried about the safety of their loved ones, losing their jobs, keeping their homes, or even just putting food on the table, so being asked to fill out a questionnaire might seem like an unnecessary undertaking. And with the advice for us all to keep a safe distance apart, the normal teams of census takers knocking on people’s doors will be understandably limited.

But the census still 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 historically undercounted. We need to do everything in our power to encourage everyone to take part – even in these unprecedented times -- no matter how great the effort.

We all have a key part to play in making this happen. The ability to complete the census online for the first time gives the technology sector a unique opportunity and responsibility to do everything we can to make sure every person is counted in the 2020 Census.

Facebook embraces this responsibility and we’re working hard to make sure as many people take part in the count as possible. We are using our platform to get the message out far and wide. We have put notifications at the top of Facebook and Instagram feeds to inform people about the census and direct them to the Census Bureau’s website to complete it online. More than 11 million people on Facebook and Instagram clicked through the notifications to the website where they can fill out the census.  

We have been working with and supporting state and local governments, civil rights organizations, nonprofit groups and others who are experts in reaching under-represented communities to provide training in how to use digital tools. 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.

We are not only trying to make sure people get the right information, we’re also focused on stopping bad information from getting to them. That’s why we have been working hard since last December to remove content designed to mislead people about when and how to take part in the census and the benefits of participating. This has included training our AI systems to recognize violating content and working with civil rights experts to understand, detect and take down efforts targeted at suppressing the census participation of any group of people.

It’s up to all of us to do what we can. The census will have an impact far beyond the current crisis. If you haven’t had a chance to complete the form, please do so at 2020census.gov for online participation; phone in your responses; return your form by mail; and share the message as widely as you can so that every community is counted. We’re all in this together and everyone counts.

Sheryl Sandberg is chief operating officer of Facebook.

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