Combining FOIA and social media

Amsterdam-based design and research firm Metahaven has developed a social media service, called Nulpunt (“zero-point”), on which users can access, share, comment and collaborate on public documents.

The goal of this service is increased government transparency and accountability. The online database of FOIA’d documents functions like a social RSS reader; users can subscribe to topics of interest and automatically receive relevant government documents. The documents can then be excerpted and shared to highlight relevant information.

The project merges democracy with the ever-growing field of social media. While legislation such as the FOIA and others has the ultimate goal of government transparency, some agencies are more proactive with the release of public documents than others. Backlogs can form, causing citizens to have to wait extended periods for responses to their requests. Nulpunt will encourage users to share and collaborate, ultimately promoting more transparency. With this socialization of democracy, citizens could see the end of government secrecy.

Nulpunt will shift the way that information is disseminated to the public. Rather than having to actively request documents, important documents will instead be pushed to those users who are most likely to request them. The service will also help to alleviate the tedious process of responding to FOIA requests, as well as filing the FOIA requests themselves. Often, agencies must search through a multitude of documents to find those that are relevant, which can eat up valuable resources. By pushing documents proactively out to the public, governments will be more transparent, accountable, and efficient.

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