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The Trump Administration Is Erasing LGBTQ-Related Data From Government Websites

by Safire R. Sostre

The Sunlight Foundation’s Web Integrity Project released its latest trend report on how LGBTQ-related language and content has changed under the Trump administration. According to Fast Company, the report shows how LGBTQ+ data and resources have been altered on and have disappeared from government websites. The analysis also looked at general language shifts, changes to access of information, and significant unreported alterations.

“We found that on 81 (57%) of the 142 pages analyzed, LGBTQ-related terms had been altered since the beginning of the Trump administration, with a total of 601 terms removed or substituted and 655 terms added,” the report states. “On a few pages, a large number of LGBTQ-related terms were added or removed.”

Specific examples of these changes include:

  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity removed Fair Housing Act content from its website. This means that LGBTQ+ and HIV-positive people facing housing discrimination cannot access information and resources about current laws and their rights.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services appeared to reduce LGBT-community data improvement and coverage goals. According to the report, without notice or annotation as was done for past revisions, the 2020 coverage target on was reduced from “total coverage” to a “10 percent improvement.”
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention replaced “LGBTQ” with “LGB” on pages about queer youth, while also deleting transgender statistics from the 2015 and 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys.
  • The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) removed a webpage titled “Same-sex relationship violence” from its website after October 2017. According to the report, the web page included information related to domestic violence issues “in the specific context of female same-sex relationships, references to where individuals can get help on these issues, and links to other resources and organizations that deal with domestic violence.”

Researchers at the Web Integrity Project revealed that LGBTQ-related terms are used less often under the Trump administration, with a 25 percent reduction in the use of the term “gender” and a 40 percent reduction in the use of “transgender.” Meanwhile, the use of terms like “faith-based and community organizations” and “religious freedom” all increased considerably.

Most alarmingly, as Fast Company points out, their analysis also shows that a number of website alterations don’t reflect formal policy changes. For example, despite the Trump administration’s limited success in trying to reverse Obama-era laws preventing gender-based discrimination, the Department of Labor removed important information about an Obama-era executive order, EO 13672, that protects federal contractors from gender-based discrimination; the order itself is still in effect, yet the information was reportedly erased within a month of Trump taking office.

One of the Web Integrity Project’s main goals is to monitor changes to government websites. When data or access to information is unjustifiably altered or removed, the project alerts experts and the public, as well as the agencies to hold them accountable. Its latest November 2019 Trend Report is based on the almost two-year tracking of approximately 1,875 government webpages under the Trump administration. Read the entire report here.


Header photo: Flickr / Ted Eytan


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