Bringing back full disclosure

Daxton R. “Chip” Stewart & Charles N. Davis. (2016). Bringing back full disclosure: A call for dismantling FOIA. Communication Law and Policy, 21(4), 515-537.

Abstract: The Freedom of Information Act began as a tool for ensuring full disclosure of federal government agencies, but it has consistently failed to live up to these expectations. Despite frequent amendments, FOIA remains a law rooted in an era of paper record-keeping, where files are created and stored by government, protected from release by decades of judicial expansion of exemptions, and remain largely hidden from public scrutiny. Modern computing technology should allow much easier and broader access for citizens, but FOIA needs radical transformation to reclaim its purpose. This article calls for a structural overhaul of FOIA focusing on proactive transparency, taking advantage of modern record-keeping technology such as open government portals and automation to enable citizen access to records as early as possible. Exceptions should be narrow and applied at the moment a record is created, and incentives should shift to favor disclosure in the face of agency inaction or delay.

Charles N. Davis 

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