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Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) pressured the Trump Administration to provide answers to the American public following a report from the New York Times this week that the White House is working with the Social Security Administration (SSA) on a proposal to monitor social media accounts of Americans who claim disability benefits. The Senators’ letter raises several questions about the proposal related to the privacy of American citizens, the already limited resources available to SSA workers, the use of artificial intelligence, and plans to increase the scope of the social media monitoring program.

 “Rooting out fraud in all federal programs is an important goal, which we have long supported.  However, we are concerned that this proposal – which involves the federal government spying upon taxpayers – is riddled with problems related to due process, privacy, the prudent use of valuable, yet limited Social Security Administration (SSA) funds, and the assumption that people with eligible disabilities can be determined to be committing fraud through their social media posts. The unspoken assumption of this social media analysis is that people with disabilities are inactive, pitiful shells who have no social life and no interaction with others. It is an inherently disrespectful and demeaning set of assumptions that marginalizes and minimizes their contributions to society and their lives,” the Senators’ wrote.

 The letter outlines several potential problems with a social media monitoring program, including the inaccuracy of social media posts, the costs of training staff to monitor posts for an agency that has already experienced deep budget cuts, and the potential for abuse of the program.

The Senators’ believe the Administration should answer questions and provide transparency to taxpayers before undertaking such a serious, and potentially harmful, proposal. 

 A copy of the letter can be found here