FOIA Mapper: Who Uses FOIA? – An Analysis of 229,000 Requests to 85 Government Agencies

When the Freedom of Information Act was enacted in 1966, it was envisioned as a tool for journalists to facilitate government oversight and accountability. Although the FOIA is still generally thought of in this way, inextricably linked to the news media’s role as government watchdog, this view bears little resemblance to the reality of how FOIA is used today.

Nowadays, journalists account for only a small share of FOIA requests (just 7.6% by the estimate below). Since it was enacted, the FOIA’s user base has evolved to encompass a diverse ecosystem of organizations, entities, and individuals who use FOIA for a wide variety of reasons. Its users include lawyers, nonprofits, academic researchers, hospitals, political committees, hedge funds, government agencies, private individuals, and many others.