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FOIA Machine offers web platform for managing open record requests

FOIA Machine is a new open-source web platform to manage your open records requests. It’s aimed to help you get what you want from your request, avoid being ignored and appeal when you are denied.

"It’s aimed to help you get what you want from your request, avoid being ignored and appeal when you are denied", says Djordje Padejski, investigative journalist and founding director of the FOIA Machine.

“What we’re hoping to solve is this problem,” Coulter Jones of California Watch said, showing the room a picture of binders full of FOIA requests at the NICAR Database Library. Instead of information on who and how to FOIA confined to silos in individual newsrooms (or binders), the FOIA Machine developers want to pool that knowledge in one place.

“There’s not a collective body of knowledge that we’re working with,” Jones said.

What the FOIA Machine will do:

  • Collect and store information about who to send requests to for agencies at a state and federal level.
  • Guide you through the request process.
  • Keep track of your exchanges with FOIA officers, very similar to an email program.
  • Send you an alert when you need to follow up if you haven’t received a response (it knows when to alert you based on the response times for each agency you FOIA).
  • Help you manage multiple requests in a group project.
  • Collect statistics on response rates and request response times.
  • In the future, it will offer suggestions on how to improve the wording of your requests.
  • Garner support from the public, and publicly shame recalcitrant agencies.

FOIA Machine wants your knowledge! The platform is currently a prototype, and will look for journalists to volunteer as beta-testers in a month or so. Today at the event, Padejski and attendees filed foia requests to DOD, FBI and SSA to learn about how many officials of these agencies were disciplined for not failing to provide public information or for illegally closing a public proceeding or other violations including.

Contact @foiamachine with your ideas.

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