The Mueller Report – Now with Linked Footnotes and Accessible

The Mueller Report, orginally released as a scanned image PDF, is now available as a text-based EPUB document with 747 live footnotes and is conformant with both Web and EPUB accessibility requirements.

The Mueller Report is arguably one of the most important documents in American politics. However, when the report was made available to the public by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the morning of April 18th, 2019, the formatting left much to be desired.  For one thing, it was initially published as a PDF image file with no text, which meant it could not be searched. That version of the report can be found here.  An updated version of the report, with searchable text, was published by the DOJ on April 22nd at the same URL and with the same filename (report.pdf).  More importantly, while the report had 2,390 footnotes, only 14 of those referenced links to live web pages. In addition the report contained many formatting issues that made it less than accessible to reading disabled people and was not compliant with US federal law 508 accessibility standards.

The Internet Archive sought to help make the report more useful by adding links to as many references in the footnotes as possible, as well as help make it more accessible to the reading disabled community. To do this, we teamed with MuckRock to crowdsource the identification of web-based resources referred to in footnotes.  We then worked with a team of interns to carefully research every footnote and, in some cases, the multiple references each one contained.  We identified 733 external resources (added to the 14 available in the original report, for a total of 747 links) which we archived via the Wayback Machine, the Internet Archive’s TV News Archive, and uploaded to its collections. We included links to archived webpages to guard against the ephemerality of web-based resources. In particular referencing archives guards against link rot (when URLs go dead, e.g. return a status code 404) and content drift (when the content associated with a URLs changes over time.)

In addition, the report has been made fully conformant with both Web and EPUB accessibility requirements, as well as meeting the U.S. government’s Section 508 requirements. This includes proper heading markup and other accessibility markup, to facilitate the use of assistive technology, proper image descriptions for users unable to see the images (including the redactions), and accessibility metadata. It is now fully accessible for the print-disabled, which includes blind, low-vision, dyslexic, and other users with visual impairments. This work was done by Publishing Technology Partners and codeMantra.

The production of this enhanced EPUB edition of the Mueller Report was done in partnership with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Their editors added the links we found, as well as the accessibility changes that had been identified, to a high quality EPUB edition of the report that they had previously created and published. We are happy to share that updated version here.

This version of the report still does not have links for every footnote.  That is because many of the underlying documents and interviews cited in the report are not yet available to the public, and in some cases the footnotes are points of clarification and no external resources are relevant.  We are monitoring open FOIA requests for documents that are currently unavailable and we hope to add more links to updated versions of the report as they become available.

We also know there may be some errors or other omissions in our links and edits and, as such, welcome any suggestions of additional resources that should be linked to references in the report. We also invite suggestions of other public documents that could be made more accessible.  Please write to info@archive.org with your thoughts. 

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3 Responses to The Mueller Report – Now with Linked Footnotes and Accessible

  1. Thank you for always moving forward.

  2. Frank Lowney says:

    Footnotes (and endnotes) in digital documents are superfluous. They really need to be something else. I tried to explore the issues in this old 2015 blog post:

    http://frank-lowney.blogspot.com/2015/04/footnotes-and-endnotes-in-ibooks-author.html

    I hope that you find some of it useful.

  3. Michael Faklis says:

    Thank you everyone who contributed to this effort.

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