Emerging Tech

GOV Unplugged: Your Guide to What’s Shut Down During a Shutdown

S.john/Shutterstock.com

There are plenty of physical reminders of how the government shutdown is affecting the nation, from closure notices outside national parks and monuments to federal employees out eating, drinking and dog-walking in the middle of the day.

There is also no shortage of digital reminders of what happens when the government goes offline.

Numerous federal websites are down entirely, including the White House petition site We the People and the Agriculture Department’s full Web presence. Some offline sites simply redirect to a notice on the main government website USA.gov, including NASA’s main website.

Other websites are largely intact but have put up a notice explaining they may not be updated during the shutdown, such as CIO.gov.

Most government profiles on Twitter, Facebook and other social media feeds have also gone dark during the shutdown.

White House websites generally carry a mildly partisan notice, such as the White House blog’s “Due to Congress’s failure to pass legislation to fund the government, the information on this web site may not be up to date.” Agency website’s carry a more neutral notice, such as USDA’s “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available.”

The Health and Human Services Department’s main website carries two notices. One warns that some HHS sites aren’t being updated because of the shutdown. Another notes the agency is being pummeled with media requests about Tuesday’s launch of healthcare exchanges, part of President Obama’s landmark healthcare reform law and a major sticking point in budget negotiations between the White House and Congress. The notice directs reporters to browse a collection of online fact sheets before contacting the HHS press office.

White House guidance calls for government websites to be switched off during a shutdown unless they’re connected with excepted activities, such as protecting national security or federal property. In those cases, the sites should be “maintained at the lowest possible level” to protect security and functionality. Non-excepted sites should be switched off even if it will cost more to start them back up after the shutdown is over than to turn them off in the first place, the guidance states.

Remember that slew of unnecessary and outdated dot-govs that President Obama promised to clean up in 2011? (That’s okay, most people don’t either). A lot of them are still online, un-updated and with no notice about the shutdown. Fear not, dear reader, CouldIhaveLupus.gov is still up and running.

The government maintains a list of these outdated websites. The goal is to eventually shutter them or pass them off to third parties such as universities or foundations or to roll their content into the subdomains of larger government websites where the public will be more likely to see the content and it will cost the government less to host it.

You can’t find that list, though. The General Services Administration maintains it on Data.gov, the repository for government data feeds, which is offline during the shutdown. That means some non-governmental developers that build apps and websites using federal data about housing  prices, environmental reports and drug approvals will be forced to take a break.

The team of Presidential Innovation Fellows tasked with making more government data machine readable and open to the public is also furloughed. A notice on the computer code sharing site Github explains the team will be offline and unable to respond to code sharing requests until the budget impasse is settled. 

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(Image via S.john/Shutterstock.com)

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