One woman took to social media with allegations that she was harassed by American Community Survey (ACS) workers for nearly a decade.
In a viral video that has amassed over 2.2 million views and more than 297,000 likes, TikToker Tara Rule (@pogsyy) expressed frustration over reportedly being targeted and pressured to participate in the questionnaire.
“Imagine you get a letter in the mail saying that if you don’t answer all the questions in the survey, that you’re gonna be punished by law,” the woman began in the clip.
According to Rule, some of the questions in the survey included: “How much money do you have,” “Do you have a smartphone or a tablet lying around,” “What time do you leave for work, and how long is your home vacant for,” “What routes do you take to get to work,” and “Do you have any TVs or anything else of value?”
“It sounds rather invasive and probably like a scam, so you probably choose not to fill out the survey, right?” she asked.
Rule then showed an ABC News interview clip in which another woman who received the survey said she stopped filling it out because she thought it was a scam.
However, Rule said not responding to the survey is a bit trickier than most people could imagine.
“If they don’t get you to fill it out with the empty threats of legal action, fines, and jail time, they will wear you down because they will call you hundreds of thousands of times, all hours of the day and night,” Rule said. “They will show up at your job. They will show up at your home. Every single day, multiple times a day, and I am not exaggerating.”
ACS workers can visit people’s homes and may attempt to collect responses via the Internet, mail, phone calls, and in-person interviews. The survey is conducted yearly and aimed at “giving communities the current information they need to plan investments and services,” per Census.gov. Since the ACS is part of the decennial census, people who are selected are required by law to respond. However, it’s worth noting that the Census Bureau has not prosecuted anyone for their refusal to participate in a survey since 1970, according to PolitiFact.
Though participants are supposed to be randomly selected every few years, and the Bureau tries to “reduce the chance that a household will get the survey more than once in a 5-year period,” the TikToker claimed she was selected multiple times over almost a decade. When she asked why, she said she was told it had nothing to do with her and everything to do with the properties where she resided.
“It’s not about the person; it is about the property,” she was reportedly told.
However, the content creator challenged that idea. “Why have you found me at three different properties if it’s just about the property?” she said. “The odds of that are like 000.1 in a million. It’s, like, so improbable.”
Rule said after contacting the police and being told they couldn’t do anything, she decided to connect with others who were also “harassed” by the Bureau to find the “common thread.”
“Which led me to this document,” she said while showing a screen-grabbed image of what she described as “kind of the first incarnation of the American Community Survey.”
She claimed the document said the Census Bureau chooses people with “the three Ds”: defective, dependent, and delinquent.
In other words, the woman alleged the ACS targeted her because she is disabled and depends on social welfare.
“Defective, being someone like me,” she said. “That is an old, outdated, offensive term for people with a disability. Dependent, which is also someone like me, somebody who relies on government assistance or Medicare, Medicaid.”
According to the TikToker, she only got the workers off her back because she told them they were being recorded for a documentary she was making about the survey.
“And I never heard from them again,” she said.
@pogsyy by far one of the weirdest things ive experienced #americancommunitysurvey #storytime #pogsyy ♬ original sound – Tara Rule
Rule claimed she was driven “crazy” by the “harassment,” and other TikTokers could relate. The comments section was flooded with viewers sharing similar stories and sentiments.
“I had this with the census people,” user KDanni wrote. “It was CRAZY they stalked me.”
“We’ve had the census person knock at our door every 2 weeks for 2 years,” user NoesisMia commented. “They are relentless.”
“I may start the documentary up again as I’ve had so many people reach out to me regarding this video with their stories about their experience with the American Community Survey,” Rule told the Daily Dot via email. “As well as a few ex- workers who have verified that they were in fact ex employees who stated they would participate in the documentary and let me in on some allegedly disturbing practices regarding this survey that the public doesn’t know about.”
However, other TikTok users highlighted the importance of the survey for city planning and developing policies that are useful to communities.
“Okay but as a city planner, this info is CRUCIAL for my job,” user FE wrote. “We need to know where resources go.”
“The ACS is incredibly important and useful for tons of people doing any research or policy,” user Matthew added. “I’ve always wanted to be picked.”
The Daily Dot reached out to The American Community survey via email for comment.