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FixMyStreet, WhatDoTheyKnow, WriteToThem and TheyWorkForYou all provide an easy way for you, the public, to hold our elected representatives to account. They give you the power to get things changed.

You are the lifeblood of these sites: you make the reports that go off to the council; pen the letters to your representatives, request the information that our public authorities hold.

Today, we’re asking for a little more. When you visit one of our UK sites, you may notice a banner asking for a donation.

That’s because, as well as relying on your usage, these sites rely on your contributions to keep them running. In fact, our overheads are substantial: your donations help fund servers, maintenance, development, user support and all the other costs that come with running popular services and large archives.

If you’ve benefited from one of our sites, or you are glad that they are around for others, please consider setting up a regular contribution of a few pounds a month, or making a one-off donation. It will be very much appreciated.

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  1. Can you explain why we should donate, when you do not actively monitor the requests which appear on your websites?

    For example, I assume that the totals given in your parent charity’s annual report include non-FOI requests such as requests to Tesco about joke books:


    and Tesco employees with bad body odour:


    Don’t you think this undermines the reputation of your site?

    I would also like to make a request for information:

    How many racist requests or annotations have you removed from your website in the last six months?

    What are your policies for monitoring your site for racist requests or annotations?

    • Hi again John,
      Donations from our supporters go towards the maintenance, development and server costs of the sites.

      Our sites operate on a system of ‘reactive moderation’ which, when you are dealing with thousands of reports/requests and have only a small team, is the only practical system. Every request or report has a ‘flag this’ functionality which will immediately send it to the admin team for attention. Note that sites such as the Guardian newspaper and the BBC deploy the same system: if a vexatious or offensive report comes to our attention, we will remove it.

      WhatDoTheyKnow’s admin is managed by a small team of volunteers working on an unpaid basis and in their own free time. Sadly, if that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t be able to afford to run it at all.
      Now that these reports have been pointed out to us, I will forward them to the team for their consideration. I believe they do not keep statistics about the category of request that they remove.

      • John,

        The requests you have drawn to our attention have now been removed from public view on WhatDoTheyKnow.com

        At WhatDoTheyKnow.com we don’t continue to publish requests which we consider vexatious once we are made aware of them. The requests in question were clearly of no serious purpose and/or not FOI requests. Tesco, the organisation they were made to, is only subject to FOI in relation to its pharmacy function.

        We are very concerned about the reputation both of our service and of Freedom of Information law itsself and operate our site with that in mind.

        We act to remove annotations which are not in-line with our published moderation policy https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/requesting#moderation

        Typical reasons we hide material include the accidental inclusion of personal information, correspondence which isn’t a request for recorded information. We don’t count the number of occurrences of racism but it doesn’t subjectively appear to be significant problem. Only one report in the last two years mentioned the words racist or racisim.

        We try hard to keep all substantive FOI requests and responses published on our site and when we do take material down we remove the minimum amount of material necessary and where possible are make a note saying what we’ve removed and why.


        Richard – WhatDoTheyKnow.com volunteer

  2. Thanks for your replies. However, those requests which have now been removed have been on your site for a very long time.

    Even now I’ve drawn your attention to requests made to Tesco, there are still many other trivial requests in that section of your website – for example, the number of cocktail sticks used in Tesco’s food testing (made in December 2012); what is the best cheese (December 2012); the cost of a green crown added to Tesco shop signs (December 2013); and someone who had difficulty using their Tesco Clubcard (December 2012)!

    None of these relate to Tesco’s pharmacy function and these are just a few examples. I think it would be worthwhile you doing a thorough review of the requests in that section at least.