Many people depend on websites hosted by the U.S. Federal Government. Whether someone is looking up information on cancer using MedlinePlus, trying to find out how much money can be made as a physical therapist, or simply wanting to check out a Federal tax form, websites in the .gov domain are invaluable.
We like to think that this information will always be available for us to access, that more and more information is being added all the time. However, that is not the case as of late: the Trump administration has been engaged in removing information from government websites, instead of adding information.
Some of the information that has been removed includes:
- LGBTQ content on the website of the Department of State;
- Climate change information on the Environmental Protection Agency website;
- Spanish-language content removed entirely.
While some information can be found on an archived version of the White House website as it was under Barack Obama, what’s available doesn’t measure up to the past configuration of the Federal websites. This is why organizations such as the Library of Congress, the Internet Archive, California Digital Library, and scores of others, are collaborating to archive as much information from the government websites as possible.
One of the problems with information on the Internet is that it can easily be changed or deleted. While it’s not surprising that Wikipedia entries on certain people have been edited, information available via the government has more import. We need to think about how historical Internet information can be preserved in this era of electronic information. The organizations involved in saving information from the government websites are modeling efforts that could potentially be useful. But we need to remember that online information is ephemeral.