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Social media policy for local governments
October 21, 2009 at 3:48 pm #83557
Sample County Social Media Use Policy – DRAFT
While social media sites started as informal, unofficial avenues of communication, the popularity and efficiency of this mode of interaction has caused many public sector agencies to incorporate social media as an official part of their overall communications strategies.
Recognizing that social media resources can be an effective way to reach our citizens, it is in the County’s best interests to leverage the social media resources available to us.
However, it is extremely important that the County take a measured, strategic approach to the implementation of social media to avoid potentially damaging consequences such as the presence of out-of-date information, the failure to provide appropriate information to citizens who have requested it, or the misrepresentation of Sample County policies, services, or values.
Accordingly, this policy addresses how and when social media sites should be established, and procedures for ensuring that information on those sites is accurate and timely.
Generally, social media is any site or online process designed to facilitate simple and streamlined communication between users. Social media sites differ from conventional communication media such as online newspapers and magazines in that they tend to be less structured and complex, and more friendly, personal, and intimate in nature, and they tend to offer tools which allow for quick, unfiltered, and often spontaneous communication opportunities.
For the purposes of this document, the term “social network” or “social networking” refers to any interaction between a participant and any site deemed by Sample County to be social media, including, but not limited to: Facebook, GovLoop, LinkedIn, MySpace, Plaxo, Twitter, and YouTube. Interaction is not limited to accessing the website of such social media sites, but also sending to or receiving from such sites any emails, text messages, or any other electronic interaction.
In terms of this policy, ‘official’ refers to any site or process set up by the County, its employees, agents, or contractors, which serves to communicate sanctioned County information or engage citizens in discussion about topics, services, or processes under the auspices of the County.
ESTABLISHMENT OF SOCIAL MEDIA
The Sample County Internet and Intranet Acceptable Use Policy (located online at http://www.samplecounty.us/humanresources/policies/all.htm), which applies to “all Sample County officers and employees, whether full-time, part-time, or temporary, and also to all volunteer workers or contractors, or any other users who might be given Internet privileges on County computers,” lists the following under Prohibited Uses:
Creating a public display of County information on the Internet, such as a
departmental World Wide Web page, without prior notification to the County’s E-Government Information Officer to ensure communication about graphic “look
and feel,” content, and web navigation. Updating files or making minor changes
to existing material does not require such clearance.
As official social media sites are considered “a public display of County information on the Internet,” the County Manager’s Office, through its Community Relations Department—specifically the E-Government Information Officer, must be notified of any plan or process to create an official social media site or tool, and must grant clearance before such a site or tool may be used. This helps to ensure that information posted on official County social media sites or tools meet all applicable codes, policies, procedures and laws pertaining to them, and that the structure of the official social media site or tool is consistent with the strategic goals of the County.
Additionally, it is important to note that simply because the ability exists to create a presence on a social media site or tool, that it is by no means immediately appropriate to do so. An official presence on a social media site or tool should only be considered when the message and the audience are appropriate to the social media environment. It is also good to realize that more is not necessarily better. A single well designed social media site or tool can be much more manageable and considerably more effective at communicating a range of information that multiple special-purposed sites.
RECORD OF, AND ACCESS TO, SOCIAL MEDIA
In order to ensure all official social media sites are properly identified, a Sample County Website Information form must be filled out completely prior to the launch of any official site, including official social media sites or tools. This form is available through the Sample County Intranet.
GRANT OF ACCESS
Any official Sample County social media site or tool may be accessed by the E-Government Information Officer or other authorized parties, if necessary, to communicate urgent information, or make corrections to inappropriate or inaccurate information, or in accordance with any policy, procedure, or law which requires such access.
Except in the case of emergencies or legal requirement, all attempts will be made to contact the Primary and / or Secondary Contact Persons as listed on the Sample County Website Information form to make any changes or post any information to any official social media site.
Social media sites and tools offer a wide variety of communication options, some of which become complex quickly in the light of First Amendment rights, public records laws, Freedom of Information Act requests, and others.
With that in mind, the following shall apply to any official social media site or tool.
Advertising. Whenever possible, all third party advertisements are to be disabled on any official social media site or tool.
Comments. If sufficient County resources are available to monitor and efficiently respond to comments made by users, comments may be enabled on an official social media site or tool. If not, the comment ability, if possible, must be disabled. Whenever not prohibited by laws covering the freedom of speech, user comments, discussions, and forums may be moderated by County employees or agents prior to public posting for appropriateness. If allowed by the social media site or tool, County employees or agents must immediately remove any comment which violates any county, state, or federal policy or law regarding discrimination, harassment, or violence. County employees and agents are also required to remove any advertisement or promotion of a commercial nature, if able to do so.
Photos, Videos, and other Multimedia. No photos, videos, or other multimedia files may be posted to an official social media site or tool unless the County or its agents have expressed permission by the copyright holder to do so, or ownership of said files belongs to the County. Unless properly disclaimed on the official social media site, no such files may be contributed by users without expressed written permission of the copyright holder of said files.
Alerts and Emergency Information. All information of an emergency nature must be approved by a department head, manager, or emergency coordinator before it may be disseminated on an official social media site.
Personal Information. Official social media sites shall not be used to send out or promote any information of a non County-approved nature. All information posted by the County or its agents must be for the purpose of communicating County information or services.
LOCATION OF INFORMATION
The Sample County website, located at http://www.samplecounty.us, is to be the primary source of information of a County nature. Supplementary sites, such as social media sites and tools, should introduce information, and link to the Sample County website for complete and detailed information. In no case shall a social media site or tool be the exclusive or primary source of information of a County nature.
Departments or divisions who have official websites other than http://www.samplecounty.us must use their official site as the primary source of information.
APPLICABILITY OF OTHER POLICIES
Sample County employees, agents, volunteers, and contractors are still bound by all other applicable policies, procedures, and laws pertaining to the creation and maintenance of an official social media site or tool.
Sample County Internet and Intranet Acceptable Use Policy (http://www.samplecounty.us/humanresources/policies/all.htm)
Sample County Code of Conduct Policy
October 21, 2009 at 4:20 pm #83559
Michael McCarthy, APRParticipant
Looks good. Reads well.
A few things that our lawyers added to ours – for the sites that do not allow you to turn off comments, off-topic remarks may also be removed by City staff.
We also post a disclaimer on the social media site that indicates it is a moderated forum and describes what content we will remove.
Depending on your public meeting laws in your state, you may want to add a line regarding two or more elected officials discussing government business between themselves on a social media site.
Depending on your public record laws, you may want to add a line about archiving the information on a social media site.
The other part of this policy is employee use of social media sites – which may be better in a second policy so it doesn’t slow you down. For an example, I have to post a disclaimer in my GovLoop profile so that no one confuses my comments made on this site as an official stand of the City of Orlando. So please, no confusion.
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