Web Integrity Project Blog Posts

Farewell and Thanks from the Web Integrity Project (1/2/2020) - When Sunlight launched the Web Integrity Project (WIP) almost two years ago, we created an innovative way to hold federal agencies to account for the content on their websites, as envisioned by our founding supporters, Toly Rinberg, Andrew Bergman, and Rachel Bergman.  Fast forward to today, and WIP monitors tens of thousands of federal government… Read More
Massachusetts case may give new teeth to the Information Quality Act (12/30/2019) - Litigation brought by NGOs could transform the IQA from a weapon for industry groups and conspiracy theorists into a bulwark against government misinformation An obscure federal law that sets minimum standards for information disseminated by federal agencies may be getting an unlikely new life, after years as a weapon of big business. If the lawsuit… Read More
Changes to Department of Labor and Healthcare.gov websites foreshadowed formal LGBTQ policy shifts (11/21/2019) - Our  newest report is a deep dive into how federal web messaging related to the LGBTQ community has evolved under the Trump administration. The report noted a reduction in information specific to the LGBTQ community and changes in language usage related to freighted terms like “gender” and “sex,"” as well as a marked increase in… Read More
New Web Integrity Project report documents changes to LGBTQ-related web content under the Trump Administration (11/21/2019) - Since President Trump’s inauguration, his administration has made numerous policy changes that may affect the rights and lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) people, including increasing emphasis on religious freedom and conscience protections, rolling back Obama-era protections for transgender populations, and reducing efforts to increase data coverage of LGBTQ populations in federal… Read More
The Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act would help the public stay informed about how their tax dollars are spent (10/31/2019) - The Sunlight Foundation is supporting a piece of bipartisan legislation that will help make the federal government’s spending choices a bit less opaque by mandating the centralization of important budget documents. It’s one that has us at the Web Integrity Project particularly excited, because it’s all focused on our favorite thing: the federal web.  When… Read More
A ‘Huge Loss’ or a Skewed Dataset? (10/22/2019) - Diverging opinions about the National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practices do not undercut the need for agencies to engage in proper web governance when removing resources. The homepage of the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) website as captured by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine on July 22, 2018.  The Substance… Read More
Recent SAMHSA website overhaul likely left users confused, frustrated, and irritated (10/22/2019) - Confusion, frustration, and irritation could be avoided by adopting four key principles when updating government websites. The “Grantee Stories, Tools, & Resources” page from the Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies (CAPT) website as captured by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine on April 24, 2019. The page, like many others on the CAPT website,… Read More
New Report Reveals Trends in Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Unaccompanied Children Website (10/3/2019) - ORR hardened language about unaccompanied children, removed information about services, and reacted defensively to criticism Children at the ORR facility in Homestead, Florida (Department of Health and Human Services). Since taking office, the Trump administration has made restrictions on immigration a centerpiece of its agenda. In pursuit of that agenda, the administration uses rhetoric that… Read More
ICE Online Detainee Locator Plagued by Problems, Attorneys Say (9/5/2019) - As the Trump administration ramps up arrests of undocumented immigrants, the number of individuals incarcerated on immigration charges has increased nearly 40 percent since 2016, to a record-high daily average of more than 54,000. But even as the need to keep tabs on those being held in the system has never been greater, attorneys and… Read More
Navigating the Wild West of the Federal Web: One Cowboy’s Reflections (8/21/2019) - Sunlight Fellow Reflects on his Summer Wrangling Federal Websites at the Web Integrity Project Over the course of this summer, I joined the WIP team and ventured into the Wild West, otherwise known to the unwary user as the realm of federal government websites. As part of my research on LGBTQ-related webpage changes since the… Read More
Introducing the Wild West of Federal Government Websites (8/21/2019) - The diffuse and disorganized nature of the federal government web allows broken links and outdated content to abound, while doing little to prevent politically motivated changes to content. A screenshot of the International Boundary and Water Commission website homepage. In 2019, millions of people will use federal government websites to sign up for healthcare coverage,… Read More
New InfoMod Appointment System Creates Confusion and Delay for Immigrants and Attorneys (8/15/2019) - USCIS replaces an overloaded online system with an overloaded phone system A new appointment system launched by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is leading to unnecessary complications, immigration attorneys told the Web Integrity Project. Rolled out rapidly after a pilot program launched in the fall of 2018, the Information Services Modernization Program, or… Read More
Think that Minute Details on Federal Government Websites Don’t Matter? Think Again. (8/2/2019) - Did loose grammar on a Federal Trade Commission webpage raise and then dash the hopes of millions? In 2016, the Office of Management and Budget admitted that federal agency websites “are the primary means by which the public receives information from and interacts with the Federal Government.” If you had any lingering doubts about the… Read More
Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) releases new report detailing the extent of censorship of climate change-related terms on federal websites (7/22/2019) - On Monday, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) released a new report on how the Trump administration has altered the use of climate change-related terms on federal websites. In their latest report, “The New Digital Landscape: How The Trump Administration Has Undermined Federal Web Infrastructures For Climate Information,” EDGI analyzed 5,301 federal government webpages… Read More
Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act would increase accountability of agencies (7/17/2019) - On Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.736, the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (ACMRA). ACMRA would create a central website, run by the Government Printing Office, that would make all congressionally-mandated reports publicly available within 30 days of their submission to Congress (with exceptions for reports that touch on matters of… Read More
Gov404 Tracker Update: New Tracker Entries Detailing Changes at the Department of the Interior and the Office of Population Affairs (6/27/2019) - Interior removed NativeOneStop.gov, a one-stop shop for Native American resources, and OPA migrated its webinar archive, orphaning most of the old content. Today the Web Integrity Project is adding two examples of removed resources from federal government websites to our Gov404 Tracker: The removal of NativeOneStop.gov and the reduction in access to webinar content on… Read More
State Department Removed from Its Website Authoritative Refugee Factsheets Cited in Court Filings (6/24/2019) - The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program FAQ factsheets were regular and widely-cited publications with origins that date back to the Bush administration. The 2018 version of the “U.S. Refugee Admissions Program FAQs” factsheet as captured by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine on May 21, 2018. As documented in our most recent report, the State Department removed… Read More
The Web Integrity Project’s monitoring processes reveal an increasing disparity in Spanish-language HIV/AIDs content (6/18/2019) - WIP Monitoring Analyst, Aaron Lemelin, reflects on WIP’s monitoring processes in the context of the overhaul of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's HIV/AIDS website. A screenshot from our web monitoring software showing changes made to the sidebar of the CDC HIV/AIDS website, including the removal of the link for the “HIV Among Incarcerated Populations”… Read More
Office of Refugee Resettlement Website Alterations Foreshadowed Changes in Policies Toward Unaccompanied Children (6/13/2019) - Changes made to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) website before May 23, 2019, foreshadowed policy changes relating to unaccompanied migrant children that were not communicated, even to ORR grantees, until May 30, 2019. ORR, an office within the Administration of Children and Families (ACF), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services… Read More
Removal of ICE Speeches Collection Demonstrates Weaknesses in Federal Agencies’ Archiving Practices (6/11/2019) - An Internet Archive Wayback Machine capture of the "Speeches and Testimonies" page from late in the evening of January 19, 2017.  In the dying minutes of the Obama administration’s final term, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed from its website a collection of almost 200 speeches and testimonies delivered by agency leadership dating back to… Read More
USCIS Removed Asylum Training Documents from Website at Direction of Top Brass (6/4/2019) - A FOIA response provides an unusual look at the removal of a series of asylum officer training documents, and a top official's insistence that they not be archived. In May of 2018, the Web Integrity Project wrote about the removal of a series of training materials — lesson plans for officials charged with evaluating the… Read More
Changes to HHS civil rights website appeared to foreshadow Trump administration’s rollback of transgender protections (5/29/2019) - Kelli Garcia of the National Women's Law Center, the group that initially identified the website changes related to Section 1557 on the HHS Office for Civil Rights website, speaks at a rally in support of trans health in front of the White House the week after the proposed rule was announced.  New regulations rolling back… Read More
Two Sides of the Same Coin: Misinformation and Disinformation (5/23/2019) - Giorgi Revishvili discusses the issues of misinformation and disinformation. Revishvili is a fellow at the Sunlight Foundation participating in the Professional Fellows Program, which is funded by the U.S Department of State and operated by the American Councils. Hailing from Georgia — the country in the South Caucasus, not the U.S. state — he works… Read More
WIP leadership briefs congressional staff on Trump administration’s web censorship of Affordable Care Act (5/21/2019) - Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel Flickr via Compfightcc Leaders of the Web Integrity Project (WIP) met with congressional staff on Friday, May 17, to provide a briefing on our latest report entitled “Erasing the Affordable Care Act: Using Government Web Censorship to Undermine the Law,” and to discuss recommendations for better web governance at… Read More
HHS removed 85-page website with materials about the Affordable Care Act (5/15/2019) - Beginning in early 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Obama administration began compiling materials about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — then still years away from full implementation — on a section of its website headlined “Facts and Features.” The earliest examples highlighted the first real-world effects of the law,… Read More
New report analyzes how the administration is undermining the Affordable Care Act using web censorship (5/15/2019) - The federal government considers public federal agency websites to be the primary way the public learns about government functions, benefits, and rules. Agencies are thus expected to maintain their websites to provide the public with accurate, objective, and non-partisan information about their programs, such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But when the administration that… Read More
HHS Office for Civil Rights overhauled its mission and vision statements on its website (5/1/2019) - A side-by-side comparison of a portion of the March 6, 2019 and April 30, 2019 versions of OCR’s “OCR Leadership” page, as captured by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. This change occurred between April 24, 2019 and April 30, 2019, according to WIP’s website monitoring software. At the end of April 2019, the Department of… Read More
WIP findings regarding Web censorship highlighted during FOIA hearing (3/14/2019) - Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a newly elected Massachusetts Democrat, cited website removals documented by the Web Integrity Project (WIP) at a hearing held by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform examining the state of the Freedom of Information Act under the Trump administration. Pressley focused her questioning on Melania Ann Pustay, Director of the Office… Read More
A new way to track Web censorship under Trump: Gov404 (3/12/2019) - The Web Integrity Project is launching Gov404, a tracker that aggregates and verifies the most significant cases of information removals from federal websites. Read More
Three attacks on public information highlighted in Gov404, our new Web censorship tracker (3/12/2019) - A snapshot of the removed "Navy Statistics" page showing the "Page Not Found" notice its URL returned on February 25, 2019. Snapshot captured by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Today the Web Integrity Project (WIP) released Gov404: The Web Integrity Project's Censorship Tracker. Gov404 is a new tool tracking removals of online resources and reductions in… Read More
Office of Minority Health removes access to webpages about the Affordable Care Act (2/28/2019) - In the last two years, between January 2017 and January 2019, the Office of Minority Health (OMH), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), removed several ACA-related webpages, links, and references from the minorityhealth.hhs.gov subdomain. The removals, which began just days into the Trump administration, are documented in the Web Integrity… Read More
Explained: The federal government’s responsibilities to provide online content in non-English languages (2/14/2019) - A portion of the "Multilingual Resources Page" on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website as of February 14, 2019 (see snapshot from that date captured by the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine). This is an example of a "key resources page," one of the approaches WIP has seen federal agencies take in providing access… Read More
HHS Office of Population Affairs removed Affordable Care Act content from Title X website (2/7/2019) - Without notice to the public, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Population Affairs (OPA) removed a collection of ten pages related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from its “Title X Family Planning” website. These changes, which occurred between April and May of 2017, are documented in the Web Integrity Project’s… Read More
CMS de-emphasizes HealthCare.gov and steers consumers towards brokers and agents for help finding insurance plans (12/20/2018) - Consumer experience highlights potential risks of relying on agents and brokers, as the Trump administration loosens rules on health plans that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act Read More
Researchers try to cope without HHS public medical guideline database five months after its takedown (12/18/2018) - A nonprofit has launched a hopeful replacement as HHS agency pays for a study on how to disseminate guidelines in the future Read More
In overhaul of HealthCare.gov webpage, information about ways to apply is gone (12/11/2018) - Links on the ACA enrollment page now direct to third-party sites, including a for-profit assistance system Read More
CMS removes PDF used to train assisters in providing healthcare outreach to Latino communities (12/6/2018) - The training resource, which had still-accurate information, was taken down from the CMS.gov Health Insurance Marketplace website without notice Read More
The Web Integrity Project welcomes Sarah John as its Director of Research (11/14/2018) - We’re thrilled to announce that Sarah John is joining the Web Integrity Project as its new Director of Research! Sarah brings to WIP several years of research management experience at non-profits, including Legal Services Corporation and FairVote. Read More
Explained: Scheduled downtime of Healthcare.gov during open enrollment (10/31/2018) - Maintenance downtimes warrant scrutiny, but experts say they’re probably reasonable and necessary. Read More
HHS dropped “gender” from civil rights webpages in early 2018 (10/23/2018) - Recent reporting that HHS memo is seeking to legally redefine gender provides insight into the shift in terminology. Read More
The Web Integrity Project receives a generous boost in funding (10/10/2018) - A contribution from Mike Klein, Sunlight Foundation’s Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, enables the expansion of WIP’s work monitoring and reporting on federal website changes. Read More
Takedown of DOJ juvenile justice office webpages about still-active initiatives highlights its shift towards a more punitive approach (10/4/2018) - Current policy guidance on girls in the justice system and info about commitment to stop youth solitary confinement were removed Read More
White House takes down archive of daily newsletter from website without notice (9/13/2018) - Amidst website redesign, White House removes archive of its widely read newsletter,"1600 Daily," effectively eliminating a significant record of its past communications. Read More
Office of Refugee Resettlement quietly removes entire staff directory webpage (8/14/2018) - A page listing email addresses and phone numbers for 22 members of ORR's leadership was taken down without notice Read More
HHS in-house think tank sidelines ACA publications (7/28/2018) - Healthcare research from the Obama administration has been buried by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, or ASPE. Read More
Explained: The shutdown of the National Guideline Clearinghouse and the independent efforts to launch a replacement (7/20/2018) - New context from a Harvard Law copyright expert, the non-profit that will be launching new efforts to compile medical guidelines, and a Stanford health economist. Read More
HHS removes sex discrimination prohibition language from civil rights office website (7/19/2018) - Foreshadowing a possible shift in anti-discrimination policy, still-accurate content about sex discrimination was removed by the Office for Civil Rights. Read More
HHS to shut down public medical guideline database, go-to for physicians (7/12/2018) - The key website for curating medical guidelines, widely used by medical professionals, was scheduled to go offline on July 16. HHS cites budget cuts as the reason. Read More
14-Page Affordable Care Act website removed from Medicaid.gov (7/12/2018) - For the nearly 73.8 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and others newly eligible for these services, it has recently become much more difficult to learn about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Medicaid.gov. Early last month, a 14-page website dedicated to the ACA was removed from Medicaid.gov, the… Read More
USCIS takes down 26 PDFs for training asylum officers from its website (5/31/2018) - The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) removed a cache of materials on its asylum process shortly after President Donald Trump took office, a reduction in access detailed in our latest Web Integrity Project report. The 26 removed documents, which collectively run to several hundred pages, constitute training materials for USCIS asylum officers, offering detailed… Read More
Affordable Care Act page quietly removed from Medicare website (5/17/2018) - Internet Archive's Wayback Machine snapshot of the removed “The Affordable Care Act & Medicare” page from December 18, 2017. If you’re one of the over 55 million people who is covered by Medicare, you might want to know a bit about if and how your coverage is affected by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). What preventive… Read More
Aaron Lemelin joins the Web Integrity Project as a Website Monitoring Analyst (5/10/2018) - We’re excited to welcome the Web Integrity Project’s newest member, Aaron Lemelin! Aaron will be helping the team by monitoring and documenting changes to federal websites, across health and health care, immigration, and other domains. Aaron is bringing website monitoring experience from his past contracting work with WIP and from volunteering with the Environmental Data… Read More
National Archives publishes online dashboard of its investigations into lost, altered or destroyed public records (4/24/2018) - In spring 2018, for the first time the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) has begun using the Internet to inform the American public about its ongoing investigations of unauthorized dispositions in an online dashboard. In a year that continues to be marked by regression on open government, this is a welcome development that shines… Read More
Following scrutiny of website removal, HHS women’s health office adds breast cancer page (4/6/2018) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women’s Health has added a single webpage about breast cancer to its WomensHealth.gov, after removing more than half a dozen pages about the topic without public notice. Read More
Unexplained censorship of women’s health website renews questions about Trump administration commitment to public health (4/2/2018) - An archived snapshot of the removed Office on Women's Health Breast Cancer website main page from the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine on June 27, 2017. Today, the Web Integrity Project released our third report about Web censorship at the Office on Women’s Health (OWH). As we have released these reports, journalists and members of the… Read More
Federal women’s health office obscures lesbian and bisexual fact sheet online (3/21/2018) - The "Lesbian and bisexual health" page is no longer linked from anywhere on the Office of Women's Health website and the previous URL leads to a removed page. Lesbian and bisexual women will no longer be able to navigate to a page related to their specific health needs on the Office of Women’s Health website. The… Read More
Jon Campbell joins the Web Integrity Project as senior investigator (3/6/2018) - We’re proud to announce that @j0ncampbell has joined the @sunfoundation, working with @tolyrinberg @andmbergman @rachelkbergman & @digiphile on our @SunWebIntegrity project! https://t.co/v9A0vVSaBB (We all discovered today that wind is not the best disinfectant.) pic.twitter.com/XVN32mgdug — Sunlight Foundation (@SunFoundation) March 2, 2018 The Web Integrity Project is excited to welcome Jon Campbell as its new senior investigator.… Read More
In website reshuffle, federal committee makes reports on collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data inaccessible (3/2/2018) - Links from the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology website that previously directed to SOGI statistical methods reports now direct to "under construction" pages If you visit the website for the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM), you’ll find that many of the links for reports lead to dead pages or PDFs that say, “this page… Read More
Why we’re launching the Web Integrity Project (2/2/2018) - The mission of the Web Integrity Project (WIP) is to monitor changes to government websites, holding our government accountable by revealing shifts in public information and access to Web resources, as well as changes in stated policies and priorities. Read More
In its first year, the Trump administration has reduced public information online (1/4/2018) - Almost a year into the Trump presidency, we have seen are substantial public information removals and overhauls of federal webpages, documents, and entire websites, as well as significant shifts in language and messaging across the federal Web domain. Read More
How federal agencies are quietly removing government Web resources, and why it matters (11/15/2017) - Under the Trump administration, federal agencies have been removing important Web resources without proactive notice or justification. We should hold our government accountable to clearly explain its actions and not remove Web content when there’s no good reason for doing so. Read More
Classifying changes to public access to information on US government websites (10/4/2017) - Changes to Web content can be especially confusing and opaque to the public when agencies don’t proactively document and explain how and why they change their websites. By clearly laying out how agencies are managing Web resources and changing websites using this classification system, our goal is to inform the public and lawmakers, gain insight… Read More
Changes to USGS website highlight the importance of search for public access (9/22/2017) - If the public cannot find a resource in a search result list anymore, can that public information still be said to be accessible? Yes, and no. Read More
What we’ve learned about the Trump administration’s changes to government websites won’t shock you (8/8/2017) - In 2017, there have been major reductions to public access to public information about the environment, energy, and climate change on federal websites, including EPA, DOE, DOT, Interior, State, USDA and the White House. Read More
Why we’re joining Sunlight to report on public access to public information (8/8/2017) - We're monitoring changes public access to public information on federal government websites under the Trump administration. Read More