A notice on Opendata.EPA.gov warned the site would go dark on April 28, but the agency says it's "not going anywhere."
An April 24, 2017, screenshot of opendata.epa.gov.
The Environmental Protection Agency's open data portal was to be shut down as soon as this Friday, a contractor who supports the site said. That statement sparked a social-media frenzy, and prompted the EPA to deny the "rumors" from its official twitter account.
One source of said rumor: The Opendata.EPA.gov site itself.
Early on April 24, visitors to the open data portal were presented with a pop-up window stating, "This site will shut down Friday, April 28, 2017."
By mid-morning, however, many visitors saw nothing at all, as the site simply failed to load. Open data advocates on Twitter vowed to "start scraping" the site to preserve the data, and that traffic may well have crashed the site.
EPA officials did not immediately respond to requests for clarification, but the takedown warning appears to have been a case of government shutdown brinksmanship. Bernadette Hyland, the data scientist who first warned that opendata.epa.gov would go offline, wrote that:
Our company ... was notified by EPA that “we need to be ready to turn-off the EPA Open Data web service by noon on April 28, 2017 — the last day of the current continuing resolution. If Congress does not pass a budget, we will be facing a government shutdown and won’t be able to give technical direction to continue any work.”
Funding for most government operations will indeed expire on April 28 -- though not at noon -- if Congress does not pass another continuing resolution or an omnibus appropriation. The Office of Management and Budget recently posted shutdown contingency plans to the WhiteHouse.gov website, and when previous shutdowns loomed, Obama administration officials warned that many websites might go down or function at "limited levels."
The pop-up warning appears to have been a digital example of "Washington Monument Syndrome" -- when government agencies promise to shutter the most visible or most popular resources when funding is threatened. By 11 am on April 24, however, opendata.epa.gov had a new pop-up message: "The data on this site will continue to be available on April 28, 2017."