Will Publishing Public Notices On Facebook Inspire More Americans to Give a Damn About the Regulatory Process?


Over at InfoVegan, Clay Johnson suggests that governments stop paying to run public notices in newspapers:

Local laws require public notices to be placed in the local papers. It equates to large subsidies going from government to the press. It's an awkward loop where money flows from government coffers to the papers who endorse candidates. It isn't chump change either. According to one study from the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, the State of Pennsylvania may spend upwards of $25 Million a year on public notice advertising.

And also, that agencies stop using god-awful .gov sites: 

Moving a notice from a publication with a circulation of 100,000 to a website with 500 visits a day is a reduction of notifications. In 2009, the Obama administration sought to move its asset forfeiture public notices onto forfeiture.gov to save the government about 6 million dollars over five years. The problem is, nobody knows about or goes to forfeiture.gov. This blog, for instance, is infrequently updated and has a very niche audience, but it still beats forfeiture.gov in terms of overall public exposure. The net result of simply moving public notices online is often less public notification. And when there are notifications, they are PDF files that look, amazingly, like this.

In their place, says Johnson, agencies should Facebook their notices. He points out that with 150 million users in the U.S. alone, Facebook reaches more people than the 109 Million U.S. newspaper subscriptions reported by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The premise of Johnson's post is that less than .0015% of the country's 303 million wireless subscribers (roughly 4,000) submitted comments to the FCC on the AT&T T-Mobile merger, and that successfully "pushing the government to publicly deliberate online in the places we're at rather than to continue the trend of public notice obfuscation via the web" could increase that number. But I'm wondering if the delivery system is only party of the problem. For instance, here is the first paragraph of a summary of a public notice posted on federalregister.gov (not, to be fair, relating to the FCC or telecomm issues): 

On April 21, 2011, in litigation arising out of the Department of Commerce's ("Department") final determination in the less-than-fair-value ("LTFV") investigation of certain steel threaded rod ("steel threaded rod") from the People's Republic of China ("PRC"),1 the United States Court of International Trade ("CIT") sustained the Department's results of redetermination. Pursuant to the CIT's remand order in Jiaxing Brother Fastener Co., Ltd. v. United States, Consol. Court No. 09-00205, Slip Op. 10-128 (November 16, 2010) ("Jiaxing Brother"), the Department found that the financial statements of the Indian company, Rajratan Global Wire Ltd. ("Rajratan"), are an appropriate source of data for calculating the surrogate financial ratios. See Jiaxing Brother Fastener Co., Ltd. v. United States, Consol. Court No. 09-00205, Slip Op. 11-44 (April 21, 2011) ("Jiaxing Brother II"). Consistent with the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ("CAFC") in Timken Co. v. United States, 893 F.2d 337 (Fed. Cir. 1990) ("Timken"), as clarified by Diamond Sawblades Mfrs. Coalition v. United States, 626 F.3d 1374 (Fed. Cir. 2010) ("Diamond Sawblades"), the Department is notifying the public that the final judgment in this case is not in harmony with the Department's Final Determination and is amending its Final Determination and Antidumping Duty Order.

Somehow, I don't think posting the above notice to Facebook is going to increase citizen participation in the debate over steel-threaded rods from China.