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.

Featured Publication

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.

Featured Blog

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.

WIP Investigates

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.



Expand All | Collapse All


Briefs and Trend Reports

WIP Investigates

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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


Our Blog

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


Website Monitoring Reports

#Report TitleDateDescriptionCoverage
MR6Removal of “Comment on Open Rules” page from HHS.gov07/23/19Department 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.”
19Removal of 190 Speeches and Testimonies from ICE
Website
06/11/19Immigration 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
MR5Overhaul of the “OCR Mission & Vision” on HHS's Office of Civil Rights “OCR
Leadership” Webpage
05/01/19Department 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
MR4Removal of Media Inquiries Email Address from DOJ’s “Special Counsel’s Office” Webpage
04/19/19Department 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.
18Removal of Pages, References, and Links Pertaining to the Affordable Care Act from HHS’s Office of Minority Health Website
02/26/19Department 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
17Removal of a Collection of Webpages Related to the Affordable Care Act from HHS’s Office of Population Affairs Website
02/07/19Department 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
MR3Link for HealthCare.gov removed from CMS.gov header
12/14/18Department 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).
16Overhaul of HealthCare.gov’s “Apply for Health Insurance” Webpage
12/10/18Department 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
15Removal of the “Marketplace Outreach: Best Practices for Outreach to Latino Communities” PDF from CMS’s Health Insurance Marketplace Website
12/3/18Department 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
MR2Removal of Mentions of the Term "Gender" from HHS's Office for Civil Rights "Discrimination on the Basis of Sex" Webpage (Mini-report)10/22/18Department 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
MR1Removal of EPA's "CASAC Particulate Matter Review Panel (2015-2018)" Webpage (Mini-report)
10/12/18Environmental 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.
14Language Shifts on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s “Vision and Mission” and “About” Webpages
10/4/18Department 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
13Reduction in Access to Pages about Programs and Policy Guidance on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Website10/4/18Department 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
12Removal of WhiteHouse.gov’s “1600 Daily” Archive9/13/18White 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
11Removal of HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement Staff Directory Webpage8/14/18Department 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
10Changes in Language and Removals of Descriptive Text on ASPE’s Website, Reducing Emphasis on the Affordable Care Act7/28/18Department 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
9Language Removals Pertaining to Sex Discrimination from HHS’s Office for Civil Rights Webpages about Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act7/19/18Department 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
8Notice of Removal on HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Clearinghouse Websites7/12/18Department 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
7Removal of the Affordable Care Act Website from within Medicaid.gov7/12/18Department 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
6Removal of 26 Documents for Asylum Officer Training from the USCIS Website5/31/18Department 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
5Removal of the “Affordable Care Act & Medicare” Webpage and Corresponding Links from the Medicare Website5/17/18Department 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 websiteWIP blog post, Pacific Standard, The Outline, Government Executive, The Hill
4Removal of Breast Cancer Website and Related Webpages from within HHS's Office on Women's Health Website4/2/18Department 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
3Removal of Webpage and Corresponding Links Pertaining to Lesbian and Bisexual Health from HHS’s Office of Women’s Health Website3/21/18Department 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
2Overview of HHS’s Office of Women’s Health Website Overhaul: Removal of Resources and Corresponding Link Alterations on the A-Z Health Topics Page3/21/18Department 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
1Removal of the FedStats Website and Reduction in Access to Statistical Methods Reports on the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology Website3/2/18Office 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


Organizational Documents


Newsletters