With a recent poll showing that 1 in 3 Americans would move to one of the newly discovered alien planets if it meant avoiding American politics, there’s no question we’re in some strongly divisive times (D’Angelo, 2017). However, there is one concept that almost everyone can agree on: Data created by government agencies should be easily available to the public.
Many Americans are showing concern about potential issues of censorship in the new administration. In response to this fear, people are teaming up to make sure information is not lost, and that facts are heard. Teams of “Guerrilla Archivists” have met in such
places as Toronto and the University of Pennsylvania where they work to copy government data onto public servers (Dennis 2016). When the twitter account of the Badlands National Park “went rogue” by tweeting facts related to climate change after many federal agencies were put on “information lockdown” with memos going around blocking the release of any news releases or social media posts (Resticcia, Guillen, & Cook, 2017), a band of new twitter handles such as @AltUSNatParkService and @BadHombreNPS made up of non-government individuals popped up and continue to post politically motivated tweets (Capatides, 2017). A @librariesresist account exists in a similar vain. Groups such as The American Library Association have put out statements about their concerns. The Society of American Archivists with others even submitted recommendations for the transition team.
The OPEN Government Data Act recently passed the Senate and in December 2016 was held at the desk in the House of Representatives. This nonpartisan bill would force all federal agencies to make all data they produce, with some exceptions for national security
and other concerns, public in a machine-readable format (S. 2852, 2015-2016). It is
essentially an extension of an executive order put forth by President Obama in 2013 entitled “Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government information” (Executive Order No. 13642, 2013).
The Freedom of Information Act, passed in 1966, is still relevant today. The US Department of Justice’s website FOIA.gov explains that the act has “provided the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency.” This act does a great deal to aid in transparency of government as well as access to information, but it is far from perfect. In 2014, under the Obama administration, the backlog of unanswered requests grew by 55% by the end of the year. While the act was “more popular than ever” with a record of 714,231 requests (Bridis, 2015). Currently, the FOIA is being used by such groups as the ACLU, who submitted a “massive” request for information regarding potential conflicts of interest in the Trump Administration in another attempt to increase transparency (Blumenthal, 2017).
Blumenthal, P. (January 2017). The ACLU announces mass FOIA for Donald Trump’s business conflicts. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-aclu-foia-conflicts_us_58824218e4b096b4a231543e
Bridis, T. (March 2015). Obama administration sets new record for withholding FOIA requests. PBS. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/obama-administration-sets-new-record-withholding-foia-requests/
Capatides, C. (January 2017). Badlands National Park twitter account goes rogue, starts tweeting scientific facts. CBS News. Retrieved from www.cbsnews.com/news/badlands-national-park-twitter-goes-rogue-starts-tweeting-facts-about-the-environment/
D’Angelo, C. (2017). 1 in 3 Americans would move to an alien planet to escape U.S. politics. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/survey-americans-move-planets-us-politics_us_58b08dd7e4b060480e07c641
Dennis, B. (December 2016). Scientists are frantically copying U.S. climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/scientists-are-frantically-copying-u-s-climate-data-fearing-it-might-vanish-under-trump/?postshare=3751481645413207&tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.c7d6b3fc541e
Exec. Oder No. 13642, 3 C.F.R. 244-246 (2013).
OPEN Government Data Act, S.2852, 114th Congress. (2015-2016).
Restuccia, A., Guillen, A., & Cook, N. (2017). Information lockdown hits Trump’s federal agencies. Politico. Retrieved from www.politico.com/story/2017/01/federal-agencies-trump-information-lockdown-234122
The United States Department of Justice, (n.d.). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from www.foia.gov/faq.html