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GovernmentDocs.org provides enhanced access to FOIA documents

Back in November, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, along with Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation launched a new website,  GovernmentDocs.org, which will house governmetn documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. From the press release:

The database will house Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) responses, and other government documents, from a number of organizations, that can be browsed, searched and reviewed. It is the only one of its kind.

Traditionally, government watchdog groups have either posted FOIA documents on their websites as unsearchable PDFs, or statically highlighted several pages within a document to bolster their findings. This has historically limited the public’s access to FOIA documents, and minimizes the opportunities for use by researchers, journalists and citizen reviewers for further research and disclosures. Governmentdocs.org changes that:

  • Each and every document goes through an optical character recognition (OCR) process, so that the text of each document is entirely searchable.
  • A powerful search engine provides full-text searches and hit highlighting.
  • Citizen reviewers can add information to each document page and highlight important findings, allowing for more robust and targeted searches.
  • Every page of every document has its own unique URL so that documents can be linked, shared, or posted onto websites.
  • The database is a coalition effort, so all of the organizations’ documents will be housed on governmentdocs.org and searches will work across collections.


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