I currently have a FOIA request in to the Department of Homeland Security, and the fee waiver request was initially denied because DHS told me that I was considered a "commercial requester" since I was using Muckrock's platform to make the request. We're currently appealing this designation (and DHS seems to be ignoring our appeal, as it's been months…), but in another such situation, DHS has once again, declared Muckrock a "commercial requester" in order to demand fees — on the basis of the fact that people might actually read the documents, and that somehow advances Muckrock's "commercial" interests.
Now, some background is important here. The whole point of waiving fees for "commercial" requesters is to avoid companies doing things like building up private databases by use of FOIA requests and then selling them. It's not for the purpose of blocking commercial media properties from doing journalism with the documents. In fact, Homeland Security's own FOIA guidelines make it clear that for-profit media operations using FOIA for reporting purposes are not commercial requesters:
A request for records supporting the news-dissemination function of the requester shall not be considered to be for a commercial use.
Seems simple enough, but apparently the DHS wants to ignore its own guidelines when it comes to Muckrock. Here's what DHS told Muckrock: Continue>>>