EFF is now accepting nominations for The Foilies 2019, our fifth annual “anti-awards” program for government agencies that, whether by maliciousness or incompetence, interfere with the right to access public information. It’s a tongue-in-cheek affair celebrating Sunshine Week (March 10-16, 2019), when a coalition of transparency organizations raise public awareness of the open government laws that make democracy possible.
Journalists, transparency advocates, and citizen watchdogs should recommend government agencies by Dec. 31, 2018 for consideration. Like a Santa Claus of bureaucratic accountability, we also keep our own running list of cases of over-redactions and ridiculous copying fees, culled from the #FOIAFriday Twitter hashtag thread and the National Freedom of Information Coalition’s FOI ListServ.
The Foilies isn’t just limited to federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, but any state or municipal-level request for information. Winners from The Foilies 2018 included:
- FOIA Fee of the Year - Texas Department of Criminal Justice
- Best Set Design in a Transparency Theater Production - Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed
- Special Achievement for Analog Conversion - Former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray
- The Franz Kafka Award for Most Secrets About Secretive Secrecy - CIA
EFF partners with the Association of Alternative Newsmedia to syndicate The Foilies in local print newspapers around the country. Last year, The Foilies ran in Fort Worth Weekly, Colorado Springs Independent, Salt Lake City Weekly, Tucson Weekly, Monterey County Weekly, Santa Fe Reporter, Folio Weekly, DigBoston, Coachella Valley Independent, Orlando Weekly, and North Coast Journal.
For more information on how to nominate an agency, please see our standard guidelines below.
Who Can Win?
The Foilies are not awarded to people who filed FOIA requests. These are not a type of recognition anyone actually should covet. There’s no physical trophy or other tangible award, just a virtual distinction of demerit issued to government agencies and public officials (plus the odd rock star) who snubbed their nose at transparency. If you filed a FOIA request with the Ministry of Silly Walks for a list of grant recipients, and a civil servant in a bowler hat told you to take a ludicrous hike, then the ministry itself would be eligible for the Foilies.
What Are the Categories?
For the most part, we do not determine the categories in advance. Rather, we look at the nominations we receive, winnow them down to the most outrageous, then come up with fitting tributes, such as the “Most Expensive FOIA Fee Estimate” and “Sue the Messenger Award.” That said, there are a few things we’re looking for in particular, such as extremely long processing times and surreal redactions.
Who Can Nominate?
Anyone, regardless of whether you were involved in the issue or just happened to read about it on Twitter. Send as many nominations as you like!
All nominations must have had some event happen during calendar year 2018. For example, you can nominate something related to a FOIA request filed in 1994 if you finally received a rejection in 2018.
All nominations must be received by Dec. 31, 2018.
How to Submit a Nomination
Send nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org with “FOILIES 2019 NOMINATION” in the subject line. You can nominate multiple entries in a single email, just make sure to enumerate the nominations so we can easily separate them. Please try to include the following information:
Category: One-line suggested award title. We reserve the right to ignore or alter your suggestion.
Description: Succinct explanation of the public records issue and why it deserves recognition.
Links/References: Include any links to stories, records, photos, or other information that will help us better understand the issue.
Contact details: Include a way for us to reach you with further questions. This information will remain confidential.
If we short-list your nomination, we may be in touch to request more information.