Redacted black bars and the words, For the Record.

For the Record: Furby files, boosting local journalism and more

Written by
Edited by Derek Kravitz

Was your furby spying on you?

Employees at the National Security Agency during the time of the Furby craze were distrusting of the 1990s stuffed animal toy, according to newly-released public records.

The Furby requestor, who received a manila envelope from the NSA containing more than 60 pages of documents, filed the request after he was “bored in a group chat one night” — a reminder that a case of boredom can be oddly beneficial for one’s public-records quest.

Have a tip or submission to include in For the Record? Email MuckRock’s engagement journalist, Kelly Kauffman, at

The Update

  • Boosting local journalism in Illinois: Illinois is working to address the loss of local newsrooms across the country, with the bipartisan Illinois Local Journalism Task Force. The task force has suggested a wide variety of potential solutions, including tax credits, tax exemptions and grants to support local journalism, reports Rick Reger at Northwestern’s Local News Initiative.

  • Addressing maternal mortality rates in North Carolina: North Carolina Health News reports on a panel discussion of experts about Black maternal health disparities. In North Carolina, the overall rate of maternal death is even higher than the U.S. average, which is already one of the highest in the world. In 2021, the state’s maternal mortality rate was 44 deaths per 100,000 births, according to CDC data compiled and analyzed by MuckRock.

  • Publishing censored news stories: Emma Best, the co-founder of thr leak-hosting site Distributed Denial of Secrets, or DDoSecrets, spoke with the Columbia Journalism Review about the Greenhouse Project — a special section of DDoSecrets devoted to publishing and distributing news stories that have been censored.

  • Documenting Boeing’s influence in Washington: In The Lever, records reveal how Boeing and its parts supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, spent thousands of dollars in campaign donations, lobbying and regulatory waivers over the years to weaken safety regulations. Boeing’s MAX planes have repeatedly malfunctioned, including the most recent incident: a door plug blowing off an Alaska Airlines plane mid-flight over Portland, Oregon.

FOIA Finds

  • NSA’s Furby records released: The National Security Agency released documents about the Furby craze of the late 1990s. After filing a Freedom of Information Act request, requestor kotaKat, who spoke with Jason Koebler at 404 Media, got a manilla envelope of documents in the mail from the NSA with more than 60 pages of documents, including employee discussions about whether the wide-eyed Furby stuffed animals constituted a security threat.

  • Pharma manufacturer problems: Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Reuters obtained records from the Food and Drug Administration that revealed problems in the manufacturing and quality controls at pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly’s New Jersey plant.

  • How Mississippi counties jail people with mental illness: An investigation by Mississippi Today and ProPublica found that people awaiting mental health treatment were jailed without criminal charges at least 2,000 times from 2019 to 2022, with some dying in custody. The newsrooms have filed more than 100 public records requests and reviewed lawsuits and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation reports on jail deaths.