A new online service that aims to take the difficulty out of submitting and tracking Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIAs) has captured the hearts of Kickstarter backers. It took the 'FOIA Machine' campaign just two days to reach its $17,500 funding goal, and currently sits at $25,298 with help from nearly 750 backers. "Prying secrets out of Washington is hard," says its creator, and FOIA Machine is designed to make it a little bit easier.
"Prying secrets out of Washington is hard."
The FOIA Machine is the brainchild of The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), a non-profit news organization that thinks state and federal laws make it tough for people to submit FOIA requests. FOIA Machine is designed to change that, allowing journalists and members of the public to submit an open records request, track its progress, set reminders, and share their thoughts with like-minded individuals in the community. Around 800 reporters have already signed up to start using FOIA Machine when it launches publicly and it appears hundreds more Kickstarter backers are looking to join them.
Several websites, like Germany's Frag den Staat ("Ask the State"), the British What Do They Know?, Netherlands-based Nulpunt, and US-based MuckRock already help send and track FOIA requests, improving the chances that they will be answered promptly. While FOIA Machine is already in a usable state, funds from the Kickstarter campaign will help the CIR finish development, improve its design, and pay for servers. The CIR bills its new service as "TurboTax for government records," we hope that FOIA Machine is a little less demoralizing.