The General Services Administration (GSA) announced today that a new version of Regulations.gov will launch on Feb. 18. The new website, which has been in beta testing since July 2019, will help improve the integrity of the public commenting process, GSA explained in a press release.
The Regulations.gov website is a Federal shared service that provides the public with one-stop access to regulatory and deregulatory actions for over 200 Federal agencies, including the ability to electronically submit comments.
“GSA’s goal is to make it easier for the public to participate in the regulatory process,” said Office of Government-wide Policy Associate Administrator Krystal Brumfield. “The new Regulations.gov re-envisions the public site, with enhanced search capabilities, a simplified commenting process, and a mobile-friendly interface.”
As part of the update, the website will now use reCAPTCHA to ensure that only actual humans – and not bots – are accessing the site. Additionally, a comment application programming interface (API) will allow authorized entities to post bulk comments. GSA said this new feature will allow advocacy organizations to more easily submit a large volume of comments on behalf of their constituencies or members. GSA will verify the identities of those using the API through a commercial provider of identity validation services.
GSA is also looking to introduce transparency and accountability into the source of automated comments. Under the previous website, the source of automated comments wasn’t discernable in any way with many being left by bots. With the new comment API, GSA can trace the source of the bulk comment in the event of suspicion that a comment was submitted under a false identity. Even with the new update, individual users will still be able to submit comments anonymously.
“The new commenting API coupled with reCAPTCHA will help the Federal government to not only reduce fraudulent comments but also introduce transparency into the organizations who are submitting bulk automated comments,” said Office of Government-wide Policy Deputy Associate Administrator for Regulation Management Virginia Huth. “Right now, we simply don’t know the source of these comments, and so we don’t know which ones come from bots and which ones come from real people.”
The site has been in testing mode at beta.Regulations.gov since July 2019.