The Illinois legislature has introduced HB 4383 that would amend FOIA in a couple of ways, most significantly by changing the definition of "news media" under the Act as follows:
"News media" means a newspaper or other periodical issued at regular intervals whether in print or electronic format, a news service whether in print or electronic format, a radio station, a television station, a television network, a community antenna television service,
ora person or corporation engaged in making news reels or other motion picture news for public showing, or any individual or entity that publishes content for public viewing, regardless of whether the individual or entity earns any income.
Under this new definition, anyone with a social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) or a blogger would qualify as "news media."
So, what does that mean? Under FOIA, news media are treated differently than other requesters in a number of respects. For example, news media are exempt from the "recurrent requester" and "voluminous request" regulations of FOIA. News media also do not qualify as "commercial requesters" in most instances. In addition, news media receive special treatment for deciding fee waivers or reductions. Finally, news media are able to inspect or receive copies of GIS records that members of the public are not entitled to.
Since about 70% of Americans have a social media account or presence, this proposed expansion of the definition of news media nearly eliminates the distinction between media and the general public at least under FOIA. All a requester needs to show is that they have a Facebook account and they are no longer subject to the recurrent or voluminous request provisions of FOIA. Those rules are rendered almost completely ineffective through this new definition.
The legislation also would require public bodies to provide a verified statement of its search parameters for all categorical requests for records. Finally, if passed, the proposed legislation would require a court to provide a detailed factual explanation for its ruling on a FOIA challenge but only if the court rules against the requester.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf