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Saving the Freedom of Information Act
  • Date: Thursday, November 18, 2021
  • Time: 5:00 pm
  • Location: Online

Enacted in 1966, and taking effect on July 5, 1967, the Freedom of Information Act ( FOIA) provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to federal agency records, and establishes a statutory right of public access to Executive Branch information in the federal government. Professor Margaret Kwoka posits that FOIA was designed to promote oversight of governmental activities, under the notion that most users would be journalists. Today, however, FOIA is largely used for purposes other than fostering democratic accountability, and most requesters are either individuals seeking their own files, businesses using FOIA as part of commercial enterprises, or others with idiosyncratic purposes like political opposition research. In this sweeping, empirical study, Kwoka documents how agencies have responded to the large volume of non-oversight requesters by creating new processes, systems, and specialists, which in turn has had a deleterious impact on journalists and the media. To address this problem, Kwoka proposes a series of structural solutions aimed at shrinking FOIA to re-center its oversight purposes.