Being mindful of personal social media use in the APS

Senator Abetz, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, has written a fantastic blog post commenting on the need for Australian Public Servants to be mindful of what they say (and how they say it) on social media.

The post, Public Servants should exercise care with social media, is in the Senator’s blog and has also been highlighted in the media.

Regardless of personal view as to whether the current APS guidance goes too far in limiting public participation by public servants in policy matters which affect them as a citizen, or in their ability to participate in public political debates, it is great to see the Minister responsible for the Public Service taking a measured public position which aligns with the current guidance.

Government today makes extensive use of social media in communication, engagement and customer service and public servants, like other Australians, are likely to use social channels personally and professionally to maintain their networks and express their views.

Social media use is normal throughout our community and within the Australian Public Service. It isn’t something to be feared or suppressed and the fears of widespread misuse have not been realised in practice.

Instead, for the most part, people have used social media well, although certain agencies still restrict access to and use of these channels – both personally and officially.

If agencies want to further minimise their perceived risks with social media, they need to focus on educating and supporting their staff to use these platforms wisely and within clear guidance.

To achieve this agencies need to have guidance and education in place. Later this year I’ll be asking them to see how many (at a federal level) already do, and comparing it with my research two years ago (when under 25% did).

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