One of the biggest challenges for anyone making mass Freedom of Information requests to councils, police forces, NHS bodies, and more, is organisation.

Collating emails with acknowledgements, overdue requests, those extended to consider the public interest test, can often be a messy and difficult to manage tasks. This is even before any information is received.

Google is now helping to make the task a little easier for journalists.

The web company has given mySociety a grant (of an undisclosed amount), as part of its Digital News Initiative, to build a platform to help journalists. A blogpost by the organisation says: “We’ll be making use of the grant to develop a new toolset for journalists using Freedom of Information.”

MySociety, a charity, is most well known for its public FOI request making platform WhatDoTheyKnow. The website hosts more than 300,000 FOI requests that have been sent to the 17,000 public authorities listed online. Volunteers for the website check for abuse of the service as well as problems with requests and updating email addresses that are updated by public authorities.

The request making website is hosted on a platform called Alaveteli, which is also used on similar websites to WhatDoTheyKnow in 24 other countries.

The grant from Google, mySociety says, will be used to create ‘Alaveteli Professional’ as part of the organisations commercial side. Any cash made from media organisations buying the developed “toolset” will be funnelled into the organisation’s charitable side.

There are very few details on what’s going to be built at present hopefully the tool will be a request management system that allows requests to be easily sorted.

MySociety says it will be making more details public in the coming months. “In the interim we’ll be speaking to lots of users, especially journalists and campaigning organisations on their use of FOI.”

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I am a journalist and author. I am a journalist at the UK edition of WIRED magazine. In 2015, my first book Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. My second book Reed Hastings: Building Netflix, was published in March 2020. I created FOI Directory in 2012 and have maintained it in my spare since ever since.