Big Data Can Help Us See Through Government Redactions

The release of the Mueller report this past week has brought with it renewed interest in the practice of “redaction” in which the government blacks out portions of officially released documents to preserve confidential information. The topic has received more media attention on television in the past week than it has in the past decade, while globally as much as 2% of worldwide online news coverage mentioned the term at its peak on Thursday. Yet, the rise of massive centralized FOIA archives, digitized news archives and a bit of statistical analysis can help scholars readily peer through those dark markings and fill in the redacted blanks.

One of the great weaknesses of the governmental redaction process is the lack of centralized government-wide coordination in determining just what is sensitive enough to warrant obscuring from public view. One government agency’s most sensitive secret is another agency’s view of public information. (Read more here…)