[Federal government] OMB asserts control over all Federal web content

Federal agencies -- including EPA, the Interior Department, and others on the environmental beat -- face a December 2005 deadline for meeting Website guidelines set by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The agencies must toe certain lines set in a Dec. 17, 2004, OMB memo to the heads of all federal executive agencies. That memo set certain standards for searchability and meeting public information needs, as well as security, privacy, accessibility, and standardization of domain names. Many of these standards are uncontroversial. OMB requires agencies to meet them by Dec. 31, 2005.

Other guidelines set in the Dec. 17, 2004, memo from Deputy Director Clay Johnson could be very controversial. One is the requirement that all content on Websites comply with the "Data Quality Act" u giving industry a potential tool for censoring any statement or information they do not like.

Another is a requirement that agencies restrict and limit links to offsite or external content except when "necessary for the proper performance of an agency function." That is exactly the point of attack used by two western-state members of the conservative House Resources Committee when they demanded that EPA drop links to certain environmental groups. The two Representatives, Barbara Cubin (R-WY) and Jim Gibbons (R-NV), made no comparable demand for removal of links to businesses, trade associations, or conservative political groups.


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