Access Denied: Federal Web Governance Under the Trump Administration

beSpacific 2021-02-25

The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI), February 2021: “The Trump administration pushed the boundaries of rules, guidelines, and norms in most areas of governance. Manipulating public information was a key tactic, which included dramatic and damaging changes to federal agency websites relating to environmental regulations. These changes led the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) to identify acute gaps in federal website governance and develop recommendations for reforms under the Biden administration and beyond. Websites are the primary means by which federal environmental agencies communicate with the public and serve as resources paid for by American tax dollars to benefit the public. Changes to language, content, or access to federal websites can directly affect public knowledge of and participation in environmental decision-making. While considerable guidance exists for the delivery of federal digital services , there is scant policy focused on the web content provided by federal agencies, and born-digital resources are by and large excluded from record-keeping laws. There are no repercussions, for example, for agencies stripping websites that contain inconvenient factual information for a given political agenda. In this digital age and at this juncture in the development and protection of American democracy, EDGI recommends that the Biden administration swiftly develop progressive web-based information policies to be implemented across federal agencies and then codified into law. These policies and laws would provide standards for web governance , that is, the creation and management of data and informational resources provided on digital platforms. We recommend that regulatory-related resources–informational resources that pertain to the purpose, function, or impact of environmental laws–be a web governance priority…”