Today is International Access to Information Day, aka #RightToKnow Day.
So here is a small thread on stuff I've learned with my silly #FOI hobby over the past few years, with links to cool resources that have helped me. #tljr
In Australia, there is a Commonwealth Freedom of Information (#FOI) law that makes Federal agencies, Ministers, and all sorts of publicly funded things publish information by default. It's called the Information Publication Scheme, or IPS, and they have to have one.
You can read the FOI law itself, either at the government Federal Register of Legislation legislation.gov.au/Details/C2020C… or at @austlii (my preferred way) www6.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdb…
Sadly, AustLII still hasn't figured out how to make TLS work by default, but maybe that's because it's run as a not-for-profit that doesn't receive direct government funding. #tljr
I find AustLII's navigation way easier than legislation.gov.au and they have other cool resources that help you navigate and understand the law. More on that in a minute. #tljr
We also have an Information Commissioner, @OAICgov that is responsible for overseeing FOI Law. oaic.gov.au #tljr
OAIC is vastly underfunded, because our government hates transparency and tried to kill OAIC off completely a few years ago. They have to do a *lot* of work to do, including protecting our privacy, and reporting on data breaches. #tljr
If you want to learn about #FOI, the OAIC website is a great place to start: oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-inf…
Did you know you can make an FOI request for free? It's true!
#tljr
Agencies have to give you information about yourself for free, but other information that's in the public interest can also be free, or relatively cheap, to access.
And you can learn to do it yourself, just like I did. #tljr
And there's a (free!) website to help you do that, run by @RightToKnowAu righttoknow.org.au
It guides you throw the process and helps project manage when stuff is due and I use it all the time. #tljr
@RightToKnowAu is run by the not-for-profit @OpenAustralia so maybe consider giving them some money to help run cool things like RightToKnow.org.au openaustraliafoundation.org.au/donate/openaus… #tljr
You can read other people's #FOI requests to see how they handled the process. Here are mine: righttoknow.org.au/user/justin_wa… #tljr
(Ooh, I see I need to update the status of one about use of Clearview.AI by the Federal Police because I'm getting it reviewed by the Information Commissioner, brb) #tljr
How else do you learn about FOI? The FOI Guidelines by the OAIC are a great resource: oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-inf…
They explain how FOI law works, and provide links to relevant case law explaining why. #tljr
Which brings us to another great resource. AustLII also runs LawCite, which I use to navigate case law: www7.austlii.edu.au/lawcite/ #tljr
The FOI Guidelines (and cases themselves) have citation references that look like this: [2019] AICmr 22. You can use LawCite to look them up, like this: www7.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/LawCit…
That leads to the actual case which you can read on AustLII: www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdo… and also a bunch of cases referred to. You are now at the entrance of a very deep rabbit hole. Bring snacks. #tljr
As you read a decision, you learn about which bits of the law are relevant, cited by section e.g. s 24AB(2)(b) means section 24AB www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdo… (2)(b) "the practical refusal reason". #tljr
In cases, references are made to paragraphs using what's called a "pin reference" like this: FOI Guidelines [3.50] or [3.108]-[3.136].
That means FOI Guidelines part 3: oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-inf… paragraph 50, and paragraphs 108 through 136. #tljr
Lawyers number every paragraph so they can refer to specific parts of documents like this. That's what those numbers down the side of legal documents are for. Now you know! #tljr
You can also use LawCite to go looking for bits of the case law that cites certain sections of law. Say you want to find stuff about how Cabinet documents are exempt from FOI disclosure. That's s 34 of the FOI Act: www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdo… #tljr
Go along to LawCite, and in the bottom field "Legislation Considered" put in "Freedom of Information" and in "Section" put 34. You'll get something like this: www7.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/LawCit… #tljr
If you click on the citation for [1987] HCA 25 (the 25th case decided by the High Court of Australia in 1987) you'll go to the case text on AustLII: www6.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdo… #tljr
The "most important" case law is generally the stuff with the most citations. But you can also learn lots of stuff from reading more widely than just the "greatest hits" of the case law. #tljr
Lawyers refer to the Greatest Hits by part of the names, so "Re: Toomer" would mean this case: austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdo…
That's their insider jargon they use to save time and typing. It's not that hard to crack their code. #tljr
Lawyers who do this stuff all the time tend to memorise their favourite cases, but I prefer to use that brain space for Simpsons quotes and funny memes, so to help me remember things I use a citation manager. #tljr
What's a citation manager? It's like bookmarks in your browser, but it can spit out a reference thing for including in formal documents (like lawyers do) as footnotes, endnotes, or a bibliography. I use one called @zotero and it's free: zotero.org #tljr
If you're a student, or an academic, or ever need to add citations or references to something you're writing, I highly recommend investing the time in learning to use a citation manager. You will save so much time and hassle compared to doing it manually. Trust me in this. #tljr
Zotero has a browser plugin that lets you click a button when you want to save a reference to a page you're reading, and it understands that www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdo… is a legal case, and www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdo… is legislation and theguardian.com/australia-news… is a news article #tljr
And then you can search for the reference to something you vaguely remember reading once, find it quickly, and then write something on the internet about it and seem much smarter and more knowledgeable than you really are. #tljr
The rest is just practice.
So go forth and ask your governments for information! You paid for them to create it, so it's yours already. #tljr
I'm around for another 30 mins or so, so feel free to ask questions.

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