Now you can annotate Freedom of Information requests and responses

Francis has been furiously adding new features to our Freedom of Information website WhatDoTheyKnow ever since it launched earlier this year. He’s just added one of the most important missing features, the ability to leave annotations or comments on FOI requests.

This is especially useful for providing plain English summaries of what information in a response was actually interesting, or to discuss refusals to supply information and what to do with them. To add one just go to a request page and scroll to the bottom, just like adding a comment on a blog post.

So, whether you’ve made a request in the past, or you’re just interested in helping out, get annotating.


  1. Apparently annotations that contain valuable information
    can be wipe off and classed as spam and accounts blocked and banned

    In one breathe we are told to leave annotations and then this?

    I do not enjoy wasting my time, which i give freely for a valuable cause. I have left a complaint with Richard Taylor
    who wiped off an evenings hard work.

    Can you please confirm that your group is not in any shape of form attached to the government?

    And also tell us if of any other groups not attached to the whatdotheyknow site that we may be able to use as a alternative for our work.

    Many thanks

  2. Yesterday a user contacted the team at alerting us to the fact someone had posted what he described as a “spammy annotation” on a request he had made. He drew our attention to the fact the same user had posted same comment on a series of other requests.

    I looked into this and found that one user had signed up to and their only activity on the site was to post twenty-eight identical annotations on a series of apparantly unconnected requests. The annotations did not make any sense to me. All stated just:

    John Harris Brian Gerrish

    There was no explanation of any relevance these names and links had to the requests on which they were posted.

    I decided to hide the annotations from public view and, following our policy on annotation spam, I banned the user from making new requests and annotations via the site. I let the user and the rest of the team know what I had done and why.

    WhatDoTheyKnow’s policy on annotations is:

    Annotations on WhatDoTheyKnow are to help people get the information they want, or to give them pointers to places they can go to help them act on it. We reserve the right to remove anything else.

    My judgement was that without any explanation of their relevance, and the fact any relevance was not obvious, these annotations were not in line with what we allow. I thought they were spam comments attempting to direct traffic to the sites linked.

    If a wrong moderation decision has been made it can be reversed.

    mySociety is independent from Government, though it does do contract work such as running the Number 10 petitions site.

    Richard – volunteer