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DOJ Publishes New Guidance on FOIA Websites

[November 30, 2017– DOJ]: “OIP [Office of Information Policy] published updated guidance for agency FOIA websites. This new guidance, Agency FOIA Websites 2.0, encourages agencies to review their FOIA websites to ensure they contain essential resources, and are informative and user-friendly. While the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 required agencies to use electronic information technology to enhance the public availability of their FOIA “reading room” records, agencies now use their websites as a primary way to communicate with the public. Since OIP issued its first guidance for FOIA websites nearly ten years ago, agency websites have evolved as technical capabilities have improved over time, allowing agencies to post more information online. Additionally, diverse website styles have led to differences in how agencies display similar information about their FOIA administration. The FOIA Websites 2.0 guidance establishes standard minimum requirements for FOIA websites, while recognizing that agencies may organize and style their websites in the way that best serves their mission and community of users. The guidance encourages agencies to include a clear link to their FOIA website on the agency’s main homepage and to ensure their FOIA websites contain key information and resources. FOIA website content should cover three primary areas: proactive disclosures, instructions for submitting or inquiring about a request, and information about the agency’s administration of the FOIA. For proactive disclosures, the agency’s FOIA website should contain its FOIA Library and links to any component FOIA Libraries. The page explaining how to make a request or inquire about an existing request should also include or link to the agency’s FOIA Reference Guide, FOIA regulations, and FOIA contact information. Finally, agencies should post information about their administration of the FOIA, specifically including their Annual FOIA Reports and Chief FOIA Officer Reports. The new guidance also encourages agencies to adopt consistent styling, use plain language, regularly review their websites for accuracy, and collaborate with others in the agency to identify areas for improvement. By carefully reviewing their websites in light of this guidance, agencies can help the public locate information with greater ease, better understand the FOIA process, and submit requests to the correct place. The full text of the guidance, along with all other guidance issued by OIP, is available HERE. If you have any questions regarding this new guidance, please contact OIP’s FOIA Counselor Service at (202) 514-FOIA (3642).”

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