FOI Advocate News Blog

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The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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August 27, 2015 12:41 PM

North Dakota has very strong transparency laws that make, with few exceptions, just about every government record and meeting completely open to the public. In many ways, North Dakota’s open records and open meetings laws could be a model for other states.

Yet there’s always room for improvement. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, a Republican, has formed a task force to review current law and make recommendations for improvements. I am happy to be one member of that task force, and these are some of the areas I think the state’s transparency laws could be improved. Continue>>>

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August 26, 2015 12:57 PM

The Federal Election Commission has refused to release a cybersecurity report over claims that doing so could expose vulnerabilities in its computer systems.

FEC chairwoman Ann Ravel said on Thursday that the agency would not release the report because of concerns "that it contains information" detailing "potential vulnerabilities." The agency had previously denied a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Center for Public Integrity, a left-of-center nonprofit that engages in investigative journalism, to make the $199,500 analysis of the FEC's systems public. Continue>>>

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August 26, 2015 12:36 PM

Ask any journalist and they’ll tell you the Freedom of Information Act process is broken. Denials are at record highs, navigating the bureaucracy can be a nightmare, and the federal agencies recently killed a modest reform bill. But a series of FOIA lawsuits also have just shown how the 50-year-old transparency law can still be indispensable. And absent any change in the law, the best way for news organizations to make sure it stays relevant is to use it innovatively and aggressively.

A study by Syracuse’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse showed that, with the exception of The New York Times, no legacy news organization sued the government under FOIA in 2014. But where print newspapers have largely faded away, digital-only news organizations—including some that are foolishly caricatured as mere meme generators and gossip mags—are thankfully starting to spend the time and money to fill the gap.  Continue>>>

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FOIA, FOIA lawsuits, media
August 25, 2015 11:44 AM

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts sued the Boston Police Department, demanding that they turn over recent years' data on police stops to address concerns that people of color are being overpoliced in the city.

"It's true that we already know enough to implement serious reform," emails Matthew R. Segal, legal director at the Massachusetts ACLU. "But it's equally true that police departments and public officials can be resistant to reform, and getting more current data could help to overcome that resistance." Continue>>>

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August 25, 2015 11:33 AM

Twitter has blocked 31 transparency-seeking accounts from accessing its developer API. These accounts all archived and made public the deleted tweets of powerful people like politicians. Twitter’s actually been doing this for a while now.

Back in June, Twitter revoked API access from the popular Politwoops account that was run by the Sunlight Foundation. This latest round of pseudo-censorship targets the UK’s Open State Foundation, which operated the accounts in question. The British organisation’s accounts logged the deleted tweets of persons in power in over 30 countries around the world.  Continue>>>

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August 25, 2015 9:07 AM
 

NEWS RELEASE

 

2015 Open Government survey to measure transparency of public institutions

IRE joins NFOIC and MLRC for the national biennial member survey

 
 
Contact: Daniel Bevarly
239.823.1811 •  dbevarly@nfoic.org
 

August 25, 2015 - The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and the New York-based Media Law Resource Center (MLRC) has sent its fourth biennial open government survey to its members to identify current trends in public institutions for requesting and accessing public records.  This year, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) will participate and include their membership in the survey.

Combined, the three organizations have 8,000 members who will receive the 24 question survey. Participants will include professionals from the news media, the legal profession and government watchdog organizations.  Results will be reported in October. 
 
Responses to the 2013 Open Government Survey showed a continuation of troubling trends for advocates of open government and government transparency revealing a substantial decline over the 2011 survey in the amount of resources devoted by media organizations to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and open government issues.  The survey also pointed out a growing perception that recent legislative changes were more often harmful to transparency and accountability rather than improvements for openness and access.
 
As a result of that survey, NFOIC and MLRC outlined three recommendations to make government more open, accessible and transparent:
 
1. Increasing government officials’ knowledge regarding open government responsibilities;
2. More education of citizens about open government laws and policies in their states and communities; and 
3. Improving and increasing enforcement measures.
 
 
Additional Contacts:
 
George Freeman, Executive Director, MLRC
212.337.0200
 
Mark Horvit, Executive Director, IRE
573.882.2042
August 24, 2015 12:53 PM

Twitter has shut off access to 31 accounts that chronicled and archived the deleted tweets of politicians, diplomats and embassies around the world.

The move follows the social network’s earlier blocking of Politwoops US, which archived deleted tweets by American lawmakers. Continue>>>

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August 24, 2015 9:15 AM

We knew we'd get to this point in the Hillary Clinton e-mail story eventually: examining the nitty gritty of how information gets classified. 

A reminder of where we are: The FBI is looking into whether e-mails that crossed Clinton's private e-mail server, which she used exclusively as secretary of state, contained information that was marked classified at the time. Clinton maintains she neither sent nor received any information that was classified at the time. Continue>>>

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August 24, 2015 9:05 AM

Sponsors of legislation that would create an Ethics Commission in Vermont say they're optimistic that their proposal will become law during the 2016 session.

Vermont is a national leader on many issues, but transparency of state government isn't one of them. The Center for Public Integrity gave Vermont a D+ grade because Vermont is one of just three states in the country that does not have an ethics commission or a financial disclosure policy for all elected officials.  Continue>>>

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August 21, 2015 11:37 AM

Because TCOG gets so many questions and complaints from citizens who wonder what they can do when their elected officials in a local government violate the state’s Open Meetings Act, we’ve set up new Open Meetings Complaint page on TCOG’s website under the “Resources” tab to explain some options.

We will continue to update this page as time goes on, and add to it as we hear from you. TCOG’s aim is to try to provide helpful information on how best to create a culture in local government that complies with both the letter and the spirit of the Sunshine law.  Continue>>>

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August 20, 2015 3:02 PM

HARRISBURG — The state’s Office of Open Records has ruled that government agencies are not permitted to charge fees if people requesting public records wish to use their smartphones to photograph the records they are examining.

The ruling, issued Friday, concerned a case in Reserve.  Continue>>>

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August 20, 2015 2:44 PM

Next to the Federal Election Commission’s front door is a quotation from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." 

But the agency is refusing to uncloak a pricey, taxpayer-funded study that details decay in the security and management of its computer systems and networks, which the Center for Public Integrity revealed had been successfully infiltrated by Chinese hackers in October 2013.  Continue>>>

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