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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

EPA mirrors its own pre-Trump website

Gizmodo and TechCrunch are reporting that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put a mirror of its own website online — a “snapshot” from January 19, the day before Trump was sworn in as president.

  • The EPA posted a backup of its website dated just before inauguration day, by Devin Coldewey techcrunch (Feb 16, 2017).

    “It’s still technically an EPA website, and so could be removed through executive action, but the fact that it was much-requested via FOIA should make it pretty robust against takedown.”

  • The EPA Just Posted A Mirror Website Of The One Trump Plans To Censor by Matt Novak, Gizmodo (Feb 17, 2017).

    “… after individual efforts to backup the website, along with plenty of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the EPA just posted a snapshot of the site as it existed on 19 January 2017, the day before Trump was sworn in.

    “‘The genius of this approach is that, because they were required by federal law to post the mirror site (because it’s a frequently requested record), it’s harder now to force it down,’ writer and anthologist Russ Kick told Gizmodo over email.”

  • 19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/

    “This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to www.epa.gov. This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2017. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.”

Gizmodo reports that “there are elements of the website that aren’t backed up because of size constraints” and provides links to those sections of the current epa.gov website.

White House and Agencies Close Channels of Public Communications

The trump administration seems to be systematically making it more difficult for the public to communicate with the government.

Blog posts scrubbed from U.S. Department of Labor Blog. Why?!

Here’s an oddity. On the Department of Labor’s blog, there was a post on september 6, 2016 titled “What is the ‘Real’ Unemployment Rate?” that described the “huge array of measures, which together provide a comprehensive picture of the state of job opportunities” in the US. As you’ll see if you click on that link, the post is now “404 page not found.” You’ll not find the post in the blog’s archive for September 2016 either. However, the post was archived by the Internet Archive on October 17, 2016, the last time that IA crawled the blog. So sometime between October, 2016 and today (February 16, 2017) that post was scrubbed from the Department of Labor’s blog.

What’s more strange is that the archived site showed 26 posts in September, 2016, but the live site’s blog’s archive for September 2016 shows only 10 posts. Unfortunately, IA didn’t crawl the monthly archive urls, so there’s no way to know what those missing 10 posts were about. There are also discrepancies for other months (eg, the archived site shows 30 posts in August 2016, while the live site shows 17 posts!).

There’s nothing that I can discern in this one found post that could be considered controversial. It’s not a CRS Report that found no correlation between the top tax rates and economic growth, thereby destroying a key tenet of conservative economic theory that was subsequently suppressed in 2012. It was written by Dr. Heidi Stierholz, the department’s chief economist.

So what gives? Why is the Department of Labor disappearing selective blog posts? We’ll let you know if we find out.

EPA cuts attendance at Alaska environment forum

NPR reports that Trump administration transition officials ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cut in half its staff attending the Alaska Forum on the Environment.

NPR reports that EPA transition official Doug Ericksen blamed the cutback on excessive travel costs even though some of the attendees cut work just blocks away from the meeting site.

The Alaska Dispatch News said that the cuts came just three days before the Forum, which has met for at least 19 years. The meeting agenda included the effects of climate change on subsistence fishing and how to help coastal communities threatened by erosion and sea-level rise decide whether, and when, to relocate.

The news quotes Melinda Pierce, legislative director for the Sierra Club:

This raises important questions about government transparency and public access to important information.

New App Will Aid Data Rescue

A custom-built app will soon make it easy for anyone check government URLs to determine if they have been archived outside of government control and, if not, submit them for archiving.

The article in Quartz also reports on “data rescue events,” all-day archiving marathons, that have been held in Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, and Michigan. Scientists, programmers, professors and digital librarians are meeting to “save federal data sets they thought could be altered or disappear all together under the administration of US president Donald Trump.” Jerome Whittington, a professor at NYU who organized one data rescue event, said about data on air and water pollution, contaminated soil, toxic spills, and the violation of rules against dumping harmful waste, “If you don’t have the data, you’ll be told your problem doesn’t exist. It is in a way a struggle over what we consider reality.”

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