The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health (OWH) quietly removed a webpage with extensive information about lesbian and bisexual health, and links that correspond to that webpage last fall, according to a new report from a government watchdog group.
The Sunlight Foundation reported on Wednesday:
Since May 2017, OWH has altered or removed several links and webpages from its website, which was visited approximately 700,000 times over the last 30 days. The Web Integrity Project is releasing two new reports today that detail these changes.
The second report documents the way in which the website’s key resource about lesbian and bisexual health has been made inaccessible. These targeted removals have not been proactively communicated on the website publicly, as is required by federal record keeping guidelines.
Today, in conjunction with the release of our reports, Politico reported on our findings about the removals of resources, including the removal of the “Lesbian and bisexual health” page, from the OWH website.
According to an HHS spokesperson, the information was not deleted and was simply sent elsewhere as part of making the website mobile-ready in 2016.
“As OWH updates its site, the outdated lesbian and bisexual health pages were removed and the health content was integrated into the relevant health topics pages across the website,” the spokesperson said. “You can now find lesbian and bisexual health content by searching for relevant health topics on the womenshealth.gov website.”
The watchdog adds:
Certain links that remain correspond to pages that have been removed. For instance, a link for “Screening tests and vaccines” remains on the “A-Z Health Topics” page, but its corresponding page is no longer accessible. In other cases, both the links and the pages they correspond to have been removed. These include links and pages with information about “Breast cancer,” “Healthy aging,” “Men’s health,” and “Lesbian and bisexual health.”
Our other new report, “Removal of Webpages and Links Pertaining to Lesbian and Bisexual Health from HHS’s Office of Women’s Health Website,” details the removal of the “Lesbian and bisexual health” page and links to that page. Future reports will detail other removals.
While some of these removed materials can be found on a public Web archive collected by the Federal Depository Library Program Web Archive, the OWH website does not link to or mention these archives.
The report also details how OWH has deemphasized access to LGBTQ health information over the last six months.
According to the group’s finding, the OWH Twitter account, which has approximately 1 million followers, has made no mention of the term “LGBT” since November 2016, under the Obama administration.
Despite precedent for doing so in recent years, the Twitter account did not mention lesbians and bisexuals during LGBT History Month in October 2017. The last tweet referencing LGBT health specifically was in October 2016.