Web Integrity Project Publications
The Web Integrity Project documents and explores federal web governance issues and changes in briefs, reports, and blog posts. See below for more.
In Identity, Protections, and Data Coverage: How LGBTQ-related language and content has changed under the Trump Administration we quantify and contextualize how federal web content and language on LGBTQ-related topics has changed since the inauguration of President Trump.
Gov404 Web Censorship Tracker
WIP’s Gov404 Censorship Tracker aggregates and verifies examples of the most significant cases of online information censorship on the federal Web between November 2016 and December 2019. The cases come from reporting by the Web Integrity Project (WIP) team, the news media, and other accountability organizations.
In ICE Online Detainee Locator Plagued by Problems, Attorneys Say, Sunlight Senior Investigator, Jon Campbell, reports on the systemic failings of the online resource used to locate incarcerated immigrants.
Led by Senior Investigator Jon Campbell, the Web Integrity Project investigates recent developments and controversies about public-facing government technology including service portals, databases, and website overhauls.
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Briefs and Trend Reports
- Identity, Protections, and Data Coverage: How LGBTQ-related language and content has changed under the Trump Administration: This trend report quantifies and contextualizes the changes made to content and language on LGBTQ-related topics on federal websites since the inauguration of President Trump (November 21, 2019).
- Web Governance in Times of Changing Priorities: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Overhauls its Website: This trend report documents the web integrity issues raised when the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration overhauled its website to reflect a more medical approach to addiction and mental health (October 22, 2019).
- Alterations to the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Website since President Trump’s Inauguration: This trend report explores three key themes that emerge from careful qualitative and quantitative analysis of changes made to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) website relating to unaccompanied children since the beginning of the Trump administration (October 3, 2019).
- State Department Removes 2017 and 2018 US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) FAQs: This brief documents the removal of the “U.S. Refugee Admissions Program FAQs” factsheet from the State Department’s website. The factsheet was a regular publication, often being released each year or two containing updated statistics or descriptions, dating back to the George W. Bush administration. Sarah John (June 25, 2019)
- Changes to Office of Refugee Resettlement Website Foreshadowed Policy Announcements: This brief outlines changes made to the Office of Refugee Resettlement website that foreshadowed later policy changes relating to unaccompanied migrant children that were not communicated, even to ORR grantees, until at least a week after the changes to the website were published. Sarah John (June 13, 2019)
- Erasing the Affordable Care Act: Using Government Web Censorship to Undermine the Law: This trend report sets out the loose regulation of federal government websites and explores the Trump administration’s alteration of websites to reduce the amount of Affordable Care Act-related web content. Rachel Bergman (May 15, 2019)
Website Monitoring Reports
|MR6||Removal of “Comment on Open Rules” page from HHS.gov||07/23/19||Department of Health and Human Services | Between June 1, 2019, and June 8, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services|
(HHS) removed the “Comment on Open Rules” page from HHS.gov. Two
prominent links to the page were removed from the “Laws & Regulations” page, including a link at the center of the page which read “Comment on Open Rules.”
|19||Removal of 190 Speeches and Testimonies from ICE|
|06/11/19||Immigration and Customs and Enforcement | On January 18 or 19, 2017, a collection of 190 transcripts of speeches, op-eds, and congressional testimonies written and delivered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) leadership was removed from the ICE website. All 190 items were removed from the ICE.gov domain, with the URLs currently returning a “file not found” notice or redirecting to a search.usa.gov search page containing no results. Items in the collection date as far back as 2004, just one year after the creation of ICE, through 2016.||WIP blog post, Fast Company|
|MR5||Overhaul of the “OCR Mission & Vision” on HHS's Office of Civil Rights “OCR|
|05/01/19||Department of Health and Human Services | Between April 24, 2019 and April 30, 2019, HHS altered the “OCR Leadership” page on its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) website to overhaul the “OCR Mission & Vision” section. The office's mission and vision statements now emphasize OCR’s role in protecting “conscience and free exercise of religion.” The changes occurred the week before HHS released a new rule that grants protections for healthcare workers who refuse to provide services, such as abortions, based on religious or moral objections.||WIP blog post, NPR, CNN, Fierce Healthcare|
|MR4||Removal of Media Inquiries Email Address from DOJ’s “Special Counsel’s Office” Webpage||04/19/19||Department of Justice | The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) “Special Counsel’s Office” page was altered at the end of March 2019 to remove the “FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES” header and the media inquiries email address in the page’s sidebar. The removal happened a week after the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, delivered his final report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign to the U.S. Attorney General.|
|18||Removal of Pages, References, and Links Pertaining to the Affordable Care Act from HHS’s Office of Minority Health Website||02/26/19||Department of Health and Human Services | Over the course of 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), altered its website to remove webpages, references, and links pertaining to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
|WIP blog post, Politico Pulse, MedPage Today, Government Executive|
|17||Removal of a Collection of Webpages Related to the Affordable Care Act from HHS’s Office of Population Affairs Website||02/07/19||Department of Health and Human Services | The Office of Population Affairs, under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), removed a collection of ten webpages related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from its “Title X Family Planning” website. The removed pages included a main ACA page, titled “Affordable Care Act,” which linked to three pages titled “Initiatives,” “Resources,” and “Contraceptive Coverage.”||WIP blog post, Politico Pulse, Government Executive|
|MR3||Link for HealthCare.gov removed from CMS.gov header||12/14/18||Department of Health and Human Services | In mid-October 2018, a few weeks before the beginning of the Open Enrollment period to sign up for ACA coverage, the text “Learn about your health care options,” which included a link to the HealthCare.gov homepage, was removed from its prominent position in the the header of the CMS.gov domain. HealthCare.gov, which is managed and paid for by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is the primary federal health insurance exchange established under provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).|
|16||Overhaul of HealthCare.gov’s “Apply for Health Insurance” Webpage ||12/10/18||Department of Health and Human Services | Midway through the open enrollment period, between November 14 and November 21, 2018, HealthCare.gov’s “Apply for Health Insurance” page was overhauled by changing the page’s format and altering a list of ways to apply for health insurance. Previously, the page contained a table that listed five ways to apply, now it contains four ways. The overhaul included removals and additions of links listed within each way to apply.||WIP blog post, Axios, NJTV News, Modern Healthcare|
|15||Removal of the “Marketplace Outreach: Best Practices for Outreach to Latino Communities” PDF from CMS’s Health Insurance Marketplace Website||12/3/18||Department of Health and Human Services | In September 2018, a PDF titled “Marketplace Outreach: Best Practices for Outreach to Latino Communities” was removed from the Health Insurance Marketplace website, a subdomain of CMS.gov. Links and text corresponding to the PDF were also removed from the website’s “Training for navigators, agents, brokers, and other assisters” and “Special populations” webpages.||WIP blog post, Washington Post Health 202, Rewire, Politico Pulse, GovExec|
|MR2||Removal of Mentions of the Term "Gender" from HHS's Office for Civil Rights "Discrimination on the Basis of Sex" Webpage (Mini-report)||10/22/18||Department of Health and Human Services | In the beginning of 2018, HHS’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) “Discrimination on the Basis of Sex” page (Webpage 1) was altered to remove 10 mentions of the term “gender.” These changes preceded reporting by The New York Times from October 21, revealing that HHS has internally circulated a memo that aims to legally redefine sex as an immutable trait determined by one’s genitalia at birth, which would impact how OCR oversees Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination in educational programs receiving federal financial assistance.||WIP blog post, ThinkProgress|
|MR1||Removal of EPA's "CASAC Particulate Matter Review Panel (2015-2018)" Webpage (Mini-report)||10/12/18||Environmental Protection Agency | On October 11, the publication date of a New York Times piece linking the EPA’s “CASAC Particulate Matter Review Panel (2015-2018)” page (Webpage 1), that page was removed. The CASAC “Committees and Membership” page (Webpage 2), which had previously linked that page, was also altered that day to remove that link and an additional link.|
|14||Language Shifts on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s “Vision and Mission” and “About” Webpages||10/4/18||Department of Justice | The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) altered language on its “Vision and Mission” and “About” webpages. Shifts in language include removing text stating that OJJDP supports the development and implementation of "coordinated prevention and intervention programs" and provides "treatment and rehabilitative services" from the mission statement on the “Vision and Mission” page, and replacing the term “justice-involved youth” with “offenders."||WIP blog post, NBC News, The Guardian, HuffPost|
|13||Reduction in Access to Pages about Programs and Policy Guidance on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Website||10/4/18||Department of Justice | The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has reduced access to webpages about programs and policy guidance. Several links corresponding to webpages about OJJDP programs and policy guidance have been removed from or added to the “OJJDP In Focus” and “Programs and Initiatives” pages. Many of the pages that correspond to removed links have been completely removed, including a page with a policy guidance titled “Girls and the Juvenile Justice System.”||Co-released with Report #14|
|12||Removal of WhiteHouse.gov’s “1600 Daily” Archive||9/13/18||White House | The White House removed the “1600 Daily” newsletter archive from its website and is no longer storing past posts on WhiteHouse.gov. The removal coincided with an overhaul of the style and organization of the White House’s website, which occurred in mid-December 2017. Previous “1600 Daily” post URLs from before the overhaul lead to a notice stating “That page cannot be found.”||WIP blog post, Quartz|
|11||Removal of HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement Staff Directory Webpage||8/14/18||Department of Health and Human Services | In late 2017, HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement removed its staff directory webpage, which listed contact information for 22 staff across internal divisions of ORR. The contact information is no longer available anywhere on the ORR website, and only a centralized email and phone number for media inquiries remain, with no name for an individual staff contact attached to them.||WIP blog post, Newsweek, Politico Morning Shift, La Opinión, ThinkProgress, Axios|
|10||Changes in Language and Removals of Descriptive Text on ASPE’s Website, Reducing Emphasis on the Affordable Care Act||7/28/18||Department of Health and Human Services | In 2017, the office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) altered and added webpages on its website about research related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), demonstrating a shift in language, which deemphasized the stated positive impacts of the health care law. The title of its “Affordable Care Act Research” webpage was changed to “Historical Research.”||WIP blog post co-released with Politico|
|9||Language Removals Pertaining to Sex Discrimination from HHS’s Office for Civil Rights Webpages about Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act||7/19/18||Department of Health and Human Services | Between March and August 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) removed language relating to sex discrimination and prohibitions on sex discrimination on several webpages about Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Mentions of “sex stereotyping” and information about sex discrimination on the basis of gender identity and termination of pregnancy were removed.||WIP blog post, Washington Post Health 202, Pacific Standard, Politico Pulse|
|8||Notice of Removal on HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Clearinghouse Websites||7/12/18||Department of Health and Human Services | Between April and May 2018, HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) added a notice of removal on its National Guideline Clearinghouse and National Quality Measures Clearinghouse websites, stating that the websites “will not be available after July 16, 2018.”||WIP investigation in The Daily Beast, sourced: Vox, Washington Post Health 202|
|7||Removal of the Affordable Care Act Website from within Medicaid.gov||7/12/18||Department of Health and Human Services | In June 2018, the “Affordable Care Act” website, which contained fourteen webpages, was removed from within Medicaid.gov. The main page of the website, which was itself titled “Affordable Care Act,” had links to thirteen pages with topics related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that have also been removed. Medicaid.gov’s top menu previously listed a prominent link with the text “Affordable Care Act,” which served as a dropdown menu with links to the removed pages.||WIP blog post, CNN, Washington Post Health 202, Politico Pulse, Pacific Standard, Government Executive|
|6||Removal of 26 Documents for Asylum Officer Training from the USCIS Website||5/31/18||Department of Homeland Security | Between March and April 2017, a series of 26 documents pertaining to training asylum officers were removed from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. The materials were prepared for personnel charged with reviewing and vetting asylum claims under certain international agreements and provisions of U.S. law.||WIP blog post, La Opinión, Splinter, Newsweek, Government Executive|
|5||Removal of the “Affordable Care Act & Medicare” Webpage and Corresponding Links from the Medicare Website||5/17/18||Department of Health and Human Services | In December 2017, a page titled “The Affordable Care Act & Medicare” was removed from the Medicare website. The page previously linked to healthcare.gov, which is the federal health insurance marketplace, and to another webpage on the Medicare domain called “Medicare & the Marketplace,” which is no longer linked from the “About Us” portion of the Medicare website||WIP blog post, Pacific Standard, The Outline, Government Executive, The Hill|
|4||Removal of Breast Cancer Website and Related Webpages from within HHS's Office on Women's Health Website||4/2/18||Department of Health and Human Services | The “Breast Cancer” website and related pages were removed from within the HHS's Office on Women’s Health (OWH) website. While content about mammogram breast cancer screening remains, informational pages and factsheets about the disease, including symptoms, treatment, risk factors, and public no- or low-cost cancer screening programs, have been entirely removed and are no longer found elsewhere on the OWH site.||WIP blog post, ThinkProgress, The Hill, Politico Pulse, Newsweek, Bustle, Medpage Today, Fortune|
|3||Removal of Webpage and Corresponding Links Pertaining to Lesbian and Bisexual Health from HHS’s Office of Women’s Health Website||3/21/18||Department of Health and Human Services | The Office of Women’s Health (OWH) removed a webpage with extensive information about lesbian and bisexual health, and links that correspond to that webpage, from its website. A PDF containing very similar content to the removed page is live but is not linked from elsewhere in the OWH website, rendering it inaccessible by navigating through the website.||WIP blog post, Politico, NBC News, The Hill, Vice News, The Daily Dot, Jezebel|
|2||Overview of HHS’s Office of Women’s Health Website Overhaul: Removal of Resources and Corresponding Link Alterations on the A-Z Health Topics Page||3/21/18||Department of Health and Human Services | The Office of Women’s Health (OWH) removed portions of its website, including text, links, and entire pages and documents. Pages and links to pages related to lesbian and bisexual health, breast cancer, men’s health, interpersonal and domestic violence, and health topics relevant to the elderly have been removed.||Co-released with Report #3|
|1||Removal of the FedStats Website and Reduction in Access to Statistical Methods Reports on the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology Website||3/2/18||Office of Management and Budget | Statistical resources that were previously accessible from the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology's (FCSM) website and the removed FedStats websites are now inaccessible from the relaunched FCSM website. Among the inaccessible resources are reports about sexual orientation and gender identity data collection methods.||WIP blog post, Politico Pulse|
- WIP 1-Pager – June 6, 2018
- WIP’s Journalist Pool Policy
- WIP’s Website Monitoring Report Production Protocol
- Web Integrity Project Organizational Plan – February 2, 2018
- Hire Posting: Senior Investigator – February 2018 – Closed
- Hire Posting: Website Monitoring Analyst – February 2018 – Closed
- Volunteer Flyer: Website Monitoring Volunteer Analyst – February 2018