FOIA : A Machine is Helping the Public !

To make our government accountable,  We, the people, have free access to Federal Public records by virtue of The Freedom of Information Act or FOIA. However the process is not as easy as it seems, and may require legal assistance  to navigate amidst the administrative shenanigans, that keep journalists and citizens alike  from the resources they need. Facing these types of hurdles on a regular basis, a team of  top notch investigative journalists are building a FOIA machine which can be described as :

 FOIA flirting with Google Droid. Photo: Center For Investigative Journalism on FB.

FOIA flirting with Google Droid.
Photo: (CIR) Center For Investigative Reporting on FB.

An open source platform which will allow users to  create, send to the right person, and track automated public record requests. The idea of the machine itself came from Djordje Padejski, a Serbian journalist,  recipient of a National Investigative Reporting  Award, and founder of  Serbia’s first Center for Investigative Reporting. The FOIA machine, however, took shape at Stanford University, in 2012.

This project was launched as a kickstarter, sponsored by the Center For Investigative Reporting. The Knight Foundation funded the prototype and presented the project in these terms :   “FOIA Machine will aid journalists and private citizens in accessing millions of important governmental documents around the world that are covered by freedom of information laws which exist in more than 90 countries.”

Today 539 backers are needed to bring the project to its final phase, and available to the public. Already 800 reporters signed up to use FOIA machine.

by Carol Illouz

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