After the fiftieth anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act in 2016, criticism of the law is considerable. FOIA has failed to live up to its initial promise of peeling back the layers that too often shroud the federal government in secrecy, frustrating the news media’s efforts to contribute to an informed electorate. Issues with response rates, unorganized systems and subjective interpretations of the act’s exemptions are not uncommon. This article utilizes data gathered from 2008 to 2015 that indicate that across multiple metrics, FOIA has increasingly failed to provide records to requesting parties. The trends suggest that significant overhaul is necessary. Rather than prescribing more amendments that are little more than Band-Aids on a withering dinosaur, this article concludes with a detailed set of recommendations – highlighted by a crowd-sourced request database – that move far from FOIA’s original paper-based model that still rests at its analog core.
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