FOIA Wiki Policies

Provided by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
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General format and content of pages

  • The FOIA Wiki is intended to be a useful resource for a wide variety of audiences. Accordingly, each entry in the FOIA Wiki should start with an “Introduction” section that summarizes what it is about in a non-technical, non-legalistic manner.
  • Each entry should be divided into sections and sub-sections as appropriate to address topics that fall under that entry. Additional entries and references to them should be added where needed, especially if an entry becomes too long.
    • For example: there is one entry about Exemptions, which links to other individual entries on specific exemptions, such as Exemption_5.
  • Discussions and/or disagreements about the content of a particular entry should take place on the “Discussion” tab, not within the entry itself.
  • Use of categorizations, clear headings, and cross-references to other entries is strongly encouraged.
  • The body of each entry should be written, for the most part, using footnotes for citations, not in-text citations. Case names and other authorities may be included in the body of an entry where appropriate, such as when they are a definitive source, but should be limited. Use of id. and ibid. in citations is discouraged as such references can easily be broken by subsequent edits. Use of parentheticals in citations to include additional information is highly encouraged.

Policies

Verifiability and Citations

  • Information in the FOIA Wiki that purports to represent facts or the state of the law must be able to be verified with a reliable source.
  • If you quote or use material from another source, it must be cited.
  • The burden of verifiability lies with the user who adds information, and should be met through the inclusion of citations to reliable sources.
  • Wherever possible, citations should be made to free and online resources, and such resources should be prioritized over others.
  • If an assertion of fact or law cannot be readily verified, it should be deleted and/or flagged.
  • There may be some entries or parts of entries, such as “Practical Tips”, where users are encouraged to present their own experiences. In these situations, verifiability with an independent source is desirable but not necessarily required.

Point of View

  • Most parts of the FOIA Wiki, especially those that explain the state of the law, should be written from a neutral point of view. A neutral point of view means representing fairly and proportionately all verifiable significant views on a topic.
  • Users should avoid stating opinions as facts.
    • For example, “Kissinger v. Reporters Committee is a terrible FOIA case” is not acceptable, while “Many experts have criticized the Supreme Court’s holding in Kissinger v. Reporters Committee [citations]” is acceptable.
    • “The Obama Administration is the worst in history”, is not acceptable, while “The Obama Administration has set a record for withholding and denying access to records requested under FOIA [cite]”, is acceptable.
  • Many topics within FOIA will have several competing rules, theories, and/or cases. Generally, the discussion of a topic should fairly represent all significant viewpoints, in proportion to their prominence and/or authority.
    • For example, if most courts follow the DC Circuit’s approach to a particular issue, that should be explained and it should be listed first. If one court of appeals follows a different approach that can and should be mentioned, but not presented as the dominant rule. If an individual district court has yet another rule it may or may not warrant being mentioned, depending on its relevance to the issue and the degree of variance from the majority rule(s).
  • The neutral point of view requirement does not mean that references to cases, theories, and material that are helpful to FOIA requesters or “pro disclosure” cannot be included—in fact they should be. Such references must, like other information, be accurate and verifiable.

Edits and revisions to pages

  • All substantive edits or revisions to the content of a FOIA Wiki entry should include a brief explanation and the reasons for it in the “Summary” field on the edit page.
  • If there are disagreements between two contributors about an edit or revision, create a topic on the “Discussion” page where arguments for/against different views can be presented.
  • If there is a significant disagreement that cannot be resolved by the FOIA Wiki users, members of the Reporters Committee may resolve the dispute, and/or create additional dispute resolution mechanisms as needed.

Etiquette

  • Users of the FOIA Wiki should be civil towards one another and work in good faith to resolve any disputes or disagreements.
  • Ad hominem attacks and rude behavior are unacceptable, and are grounds for temporary and/or permanent bans.
  • Wikipedia has a list of general etiquette principles [1] that FOIA Wiki users should be aware of and generally try to follow.

These policies are based, in part, on the Core Content Policies of Wikipedia [2], which may be looked to for general advice on the functionality of a wiki, but may not necessarily be applicable to the FOIA Wiki.

Enforcement of FOIA Wiki Style and Editorial Policies

  • All users are encouraged to edit and conform FOIA Wiki pages to meet these policies.
  • A user that continuously disregards these policies may have their account temporarily and/or permanently suspended.

Revision of FOIA Wiki Style and Editorial Policies

Suggestions for revisions to these policies should be made on the Discussion tab of this page.