Shortly after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, news sites began reporting that pages for LGBT rights, climate change, and other key issues had been scrubbed from the White House website. This wasn’t quite accurate. The Obama White House’s entire site had been rolled over to an archived address, and replaced with a bare-bones Trump administration version. An administration official said the site would be expanded over time. A year later, though, that original alarm seems well-placed.
The Trump White House site has indeed been expanded somewhat over the past year. Its original issues list — sprinkled liberally with “America First” slogans — included energy, jobs, foreign policy, law enforcement, the military, and trade deals. Today, it also includes education, agriculture, infrastructure, “social programs,” and health care, a major campaign issue that was inexplicably missing in January. Some of the sections have been split up or renamed: “energy” is now “energy and environment,” for instance. And obvious, apolitical pages like the Office of Management and Budget’s landing site have been restored, after temporarily disappearing.
But these are some of the topics that haven’t come back:
- Civil rights
- Climate change
- Equal pay
- Reducing gun violence
- Urban and economic mobility
There’s also no apparent equivalent to the Obama administration’s LGBT rights page, or the anti-sexual assault page “1 is 2 Many” — two issues sections that weren’t listed in the top-level directory. The White House petition website is still “down for maintenance,” and is supposed to relaunch in late January, after languishing for months without updates. (If it does come back as promised, Trump will have some awkward petitions to answer — demanding he do everything from release his tax returns to declare investor George Soros a terrorist.)
Overall, there’s far less detail on the White House website than there was under Obama, even a year later. External social media pages — like the Flickr photography feed, YouTube account, or Facebook page — are running normally, though some took a while to get back online. But on the main site, each issue gets a bland-looking splash page with a one-paragraph, large-type mission statement. This is just a header for an undifferentiated list of news clips, press releases, fact sheets, and transcripts of speeches that are related to the category. To learn about specific policies, you’d have to search through a year’s worth of documents. It’s a setup you’d expect more from a startup than a government agency — something that exists almost entirely to signal the high-level goals of the administration, not explain how it’s going to achieve them.
The utter lack of information on certain topics is telling. While terms like “LGBT” and “climate change” haven’t exactly been “scrubbed,” last year’s reports weren’t that far off the mark. A search for “LGBT” brings up eight results from the past year: six transcripts from press briefings, one statement from former press secretary Sean Spicer, and a one-paragraph Trump statement from nearly a year ago. “Disabilities” produces a single link to a Trump statement.
“Climate change” brings up significantly more results, but it’s almost entirely a string of negative offhand references, including some external quotes from news reports and mentions of Obama-era policies being rescinded. The terms “contraception” and “abortion,” meanwhile, bring up no results at all. Searching “rape” under Obama brought up reports on reducing the rape kit backlog and preventing campus sexual assault; under Trump, the first four results are inexplicably for “red tape.” When you search for “sexual assault,” only one page mentions initiatives to help reduce it — unless you count two pages about deporting undocumented immigrants, who commit a vanishingly small proportion of crimes.
Obama-era reports and statements aren’t technically gone. But to find them, you need to either know the archived site address, or search Google for specific pages. A casual White House site visitor would never know they existed, since they’re not referenced anywhere. And any data on the old site is increasingly outdated — whether that’s statistics about climate change and sexual assault, or information about policies that are no longer in place. The Trump administration doesn’t seem to be compiling comparable reports, much less listing them online.
We’ve got much bigger problems to worry about than the contents of a website. People can still look for resources on other agency sites — although even these are downplaying the topic of climate change, according to a report released last week. And the Trump administration has already made its position on sexual assault, the LGBT community, and climate change perfectly clear.
But it’s a small-scale demonstration of Trump’s disinterest in promoting his agenda to anyone but hardcore followers, as well as his willingness to break from the conventions set by his predecessor. In fact, given how often White House positions shift, it’s hard to imagine him having an Obama-style website — unless someone was dedicated to constantly updating it. If you’re looking for details about Trump’s plans, you may as well just check his Twitter feed.