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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.

Warning: astroturf groups pushing voting disinformation

Every election cycle, there’s disinformation put out to suppress the vote or turn a percentage point or two against a certain candidate. These efforts are usually done by shady political operatives or outfits so that politicians can have plausible deniability.

But this year is different. This presidential election, the disinformation is coming from within the White House overtly and consistently, as President Trump, his political appointees throughout the executive branch, and his allies scream about widespread mail-in ballot fraud (UNTRUE!), “deep-state” sedition (ALSO UNTRUE!) and advocating martial law if Trump loses the 2020 election (SO VERY DANGEROUS!).

I know many librarians who are putting together voter guides for their communities (check out this one from the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT)). This is a non-partisan way that libraries have always participated and helped their communities to register to vote.

Given that, I thought our readers would be interested in this anecdote from a friend and fellow government information librarian. She, like so many others, has put together a libguide on voting. She was contacted by this innocuous-sounding group called National Council for Safety, Protection and Wellness (NCSPW) (I won’t link to them since that’s exactly what they want, but you can google them) about adding their page on voting for seniors to her guide. Evidently, the group had also reached out to several faculty at her university in an effort to pressure her to add the link.

I did a little digging and found that this is a nasty astroturf group (I did a whois lookup and their domain was registered by “Domains by proxy LLC” rather than a real person or organization) pushing misinformation about voting and especially vote-by-mail and registration. Just for fun, I looked at their seniors’ guide for CA elections. The NCSPW site states that CA’s absentee ballot request deadline is Oct 27. THIS IS FALSE! The CA secretary of state site says that registration must be post-marked Oct 19 but that you can provisionally register on election day. This site is clearly meant to confuse would-be voters, and even worse, is targeted at seniors who may not have the ability to evaluate or check the information against trusted sources.

So, just a word to the wise. Check any voter information site you’re thinking of linking to in your libguide. Only link to sites from trusted organizations like your state’s secretary of state’s office or the League of Women Voters. Don’t take ANY site at face value. Use your librarian information literacy skills to help everyone in your community vote this November.

Longtime Climate Science Denier Hired At NOAA

Here’s another example of the Trump administration naming people to political posts in federal agencies in order to damage and destroy public trust in those agencies. This time it’s the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which, among other responsibilities, runs the National Weather Service and produces all sorts of information and data on climate to “help people understand and prepare for climate variability and change.” The administration just named David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology and long-time climate change denier affiliated with the conservative astroturf Heartland Institute, as deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. It’s going to take many years for executive agencies across the federal government to come back from the damage created by this administration.

David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology who has spent much of his career questioning basic tenets of climate science, has been hired for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Legates confirmed to NPR that he was recently hired as NOAA’s deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. The position suggests that he reports directly to Neil Jacobs, the acting head of the agency that is in charge of the federal government’s sprawling weather and climate prediction work.

Neither Legates nor NOAA representatives responded to questions about Legates’ specific responsibilities or why he was hired. The White House also declined to comment.

Legates has a long history of using his position as an academic scientist to publicly cast doubt on climate science. His appointment to NOAA comes as Americans face profound threats stoked by climate change, from the vast, deadly wildfires in the West to an unusually active hurricane season in the South and East.

Global temperatures have already risen nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. Warming is happening the fastest at the Earth’s poles, where sea ice is melting, permafrost is thawing and ocean temperatures are heating up, with devastating effects on animals and humans alike.

EPA Destroys Water Quality Records, Deceives Archivist of the US

Our friends at CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) broke this story on August 7, 2020 about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) illegally destroying records and lying about it. Oddly enough, EPA didn’t destroy records because they were damaging to the agency’s reputation or were evidence of agency misdeeds. The records were originally damaged by a water sprinkler accident. But instead of acting quickly to dry the records, they let them fester for several months and get moldy. And then they didn’t follow protocol set under federal law requiring that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) evaluate and approve requests to destroy contaminated records. No, EPA just went ahead and destroyed the records and then the EPA lied to NARA to cover up their incompetence. This is a case that clearly points to the need for improving training and raising the profile and importance of record-keeping within agencies (2 recommendations put forth by the 2018-2020 FOIA Advisory Committee).

Americans must be able to trust that executive agencies are taking care of OUR records. Sadly, in this instance, EPA failed our trust.

The Environmental Protection Agency illegally destroyed records, deceived the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) about that destruction, and falsely blamed the coronavirus pandemic to escape accountability, according to internal documents uncovered by CREW.

via EPA Destroys Water Quality Records, Deceives Archivist – CREW.

Announcing a Congress.gov Virtual Public Forum on September 10th!

Here’s a great chance to offer feedback and learn more about Congress.gov from the Law Library of Congress. Register now for the Congress.gov Virtual Public Forum scheduled for September 10, 2020, from 10:00 a.m. – noon EDT. They’ll be talking specifically about data modernization at the library, and who better to talk to LoC about data than government information librarians?! Sign up now!

This online event is scheduled for September 10, 2020, from 10:00 a.m. – noon EDT.

During the public forum, Robert will provide a recap of the enhancements made to Congress.gov over the last year. I will cover what we are currently working on and initial priorities for the future. We will also have a panel of our data partners, including from the House, Senate and Government Publishing Office that will discuss the data modernization occurring across Capitol Hill and the importance of data standards. Fred Simonton will provide an overview of a new survey for you to share your feedback for Congress.gov. There will also be a question and answer period to discuss enhancements and prioritization.

Nominations sought for the U.S. Federal Government Domain End of Term 2020 Web Archive

It’s that time again folks. The End of Term Archive is once again gearing up to harvest the .gov/.mil Web domain. For the End of Term 2020, The Library of Congress, University of North Texas Libraries, Internet Archive, Stanford University Libraries, and the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) are joining efforts again, this time with new partners Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) and the General Services Administration (GSA), to preserve public United States Government websites at the end of the current presidential administration ending January 20, 2021. This web harvest – like its predecessors in 2008, 2012, and 2016 – is intended to document the federal government’s presence on the World Wide Web during the transition of Presidential administrations and to enhance the existing collections of the partner institutions. This broad comprehensive crawl of the .gov domain will include as many federal .gov sites as we can find, plus federal content in other domains (such as .mil, .com, and social media content) and FTP’d datasets.

Here’s the official announcement asking for YOUR help. Please forward widely!

WE NEED YOUR HELP TO PRESERVE THE .GOV WEB DOMAIN!

How would YOU like to help preserve the United States federal government .gov/.mil Web domain for future generations? But, that’s too huge of a swath of Internet real estate for any one person or organization to preserve, right?!

Wrong! The volunteers working on the End of Term Web Archiving Project are doing just that. BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP!

And that’s where YOU come in. You can help the project immensely by nominating your favorite .gov website/document/dataset, other federal government websites, or governmental social media account with the End of Term Nomination Tool. You can nominate as many sites as you want. Nominate early and often! Win a prize for the most seed nominations!! Tell your friends, family and colleagues to do the same. Help us preserve the .gov domain for posterity, public access, and long-term preservation. Only YOU can help prevent … link rot!

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