Sunday, January 7, 2018

Critical Information is Vanishing Right Before Our Eyes

Here's one more thing to get angry about:

From the redesign of the White House website to the removal of hundreds of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) webpages about climate change, the Trump administration, as part of transforming the federal government in its first year, has already left a distinct mark on federal websites.

In some cases, we’ve observed politically motivated and otherwise unexplained removals of documents and entire websites. The Department of the Treasury removed a non-political, research report about corporate income tax from the Office of Tax Analysis website. According to numerous sources, the report was likely removed because it was at odds with Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s tax policies.

Despite widespread concern in the beginning of 2017, we do not have evidence that data has been removed from federal websites almost a year into the Trump presidency. The one exception we know of is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s animal welfare datasets, which was taken down and then partially returned following public outcry and several lawsuits.

What we have seen are substantial removals and overhauls of webpages, documents, and entire websites, as well as significant shifts in language and messaging across the federal Web domain. We know this because we’ve been monitoring tens of thousands of environmental federal webpages at the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) and keeping tabs on relevant reporting and investigations by members of the press and civil society in our roles as Sunlight Fellows.

This is all part of a concerted effort to hurt the American people. It is part of a pattern that is undeniable. The Republicans are removing information that is critical to public health and public safety. They're taking away information about the environment and climate change (this started almost as soon as Trump was sworn in almost a year ago). They are keeping critical information about policy and process out of the public's hands because the size and scope of this denial of information is without precedent. This is being done systematically, and thank goodness for the Sunlight Foundation for keeping track of. They are working on behalf of the public's right to know, and that includes the people in this country who are perfectly okay with the dumbing down of the government.

In other words, when you don't know what has been taken away, you have no idea what everyone lost in the last year. It's not just the people who voted against Trumpism who are losing here. It's the whole country, dammit.

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