Government Web Site Content Editing

By Deane Barker on December 18, 2003

White House Web Scrubbing: An interesting story about how government Web sites are changing their content to avoid…what? Offending people? I guess with content as sensitive and controversial as what goes on these sites, and the fact that they have to speak to the entire nation, and that is an election year — it’s complicated, I’m sure.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, administration Web sites have been scrubbed for anything vaguely sensitive, and passwords are now required to access even much unclassified information. Though it is not clear whether the White House is directing the changes, several agencies have been following a similar pattern.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USAID have removed or revised fact sheets on condoms, excising information about their effectiveness in disease prevention, and promoting abstinence instead. The National Cancer Institute, meanwhile, scrapped claims on its Web site that there was no association between abortion and breast cancer. And the Justice Department recently redacted criticism of the department in a consultant’s report that had been posted on its Web site.