Trump Administration 'Censorship' Tracker Shows How LGBT Rights and Climate Change Information Is Being Wiped

A new website dedicated to tracking online "censorship" on U.S. government websites has shone a light on the ways the Trump administration has overseen the erasure of important information from federal websites, particularly when it comes to LGBTQ rights and climate change.

Gov404, a new platform launched on Tuesday by the Sunlight Foundation's Web Integrity Project, was created as a way to track, aggregate and verify "the most significant cases of information removals from federal websites," the Web Integrity Project said in a statement published online.

Calling the platform the "largest collection of documented changes to federal government websites ever assembled, the Web Integrity Project said the dataset should provide evidence to "drive congressional oversight of removals of public information" and "serves as a basis for understanding the need for and areas for improvement with regards to federal Web governance reform."

"As the government itself states in its Office of Management and Budget's memorandum on how federal agencies should manage digital content: 'Federal Agency public websites and digital services are the primary means by which the public receives information from and interacts with the Federal Government. These websites and services help the public apply for benefits, search for jobs, comply with Federal rules, obtain authoritative information, and much more. Federal websites and digital services should always meet and maintain high standards of effectiveness and usability and provide quality information that is readily accessible to all'," the Web Integrity Project states.

But, as far as Gov404's creators are concerned, the Trump administration has been failing to meet those standards. Web Integrity Project Director Rachel Bergman told Newsweek that the organization began tracking changes made on federal websites under the Trump administration "because we started seeing these changes happening and we wanted to know the impact that the transition had on websites and censorship that we've started to see pop up."

Bergman also said that under the Trump administration, Sunlight Foundation has "seen a lot of failings to adhere to web governance practices and policies," such as "providing notice for [information] removals, archiving information properly and just patterns that we see that are reflective of larger shifts in priorities that we've seen under this administration."

Among those patterns, Bergman said, has been a clear and consistent pattern of the Trump administration overseeing the removal of information pertaining to LGBTQ rights and climate change.

According to the Gov404 "censorship tracker," since Trump took office, his administration has overseen at least five major changes to information on or pertaining to LGBTQ rights, including the removal of LGBTQ resources from the Department of Labor website, the removal of "LGBT Outreach" content from the U.S. Small Business Administration website, the removal of United States Office of Personnel Management guidance on the employment of transgender people in the federal workplace and the removal of content from the U.S. Department of Education's "Resources for Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Students" page.

Bergman said that while the Web Integrity Project can "never speak to the intention" of the erasures, it is clear that the deletions have coincided with a rolling back of LGBTQ protections overseen by the Trump administration.

"We have seen a number of cases of removal of information that shows LGBTQ individuals' resources not being prioritized. That's something that has happened," Bergman said.

"Of course, we can never speak to the intention," she said. "But, in terms of thinking again, Why are we doing this under the Trump administration? I think some of the policies we see there reflects a shift...and an active undermining of the LGBTQ community."

Meanwhile, Bergman said that when it comes to climate change, the Trump administration has overseen at least 13 significant removals of information from federal websites, including the "removal of the Environmental Protection Agency's entire climate change website, which there was no justification for and there still hasn't been."

"One of the biggest changes we've seen, the removal of the EPA's climate change website, happened earlier on in the administration, which makes sense given that its purpose, which was stated, was to reshape the EPA's entire image to comport with the new administration's views," the Web Integrity Project said in its statement. "Removals of public information at that scale, and by a new administration, make a real statement."

In addition to the removal of the climate change site, which Newsweek reported on at the time, the Trump administration has also seen the removal of climate change pages and information from the websites of the Department of Transportation, the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and more.

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President Donald Trump speaks to the media before departing from the White House, on March 8. A new website dedicated to tracking online “censorship” on U.S. government websites illuminates the ways the Trump administration has overseen the erasure of important information from federal websites. Mark Wilson/Getty
Trump Administration 'Censorship' Tracker Shows How LGBT Rights and Climate Change Information Is Being Wiped | U.S.