Welcome back for this week’s very important Government Social Media Chat! So… what can govt employees post on social? Let’s help get each other tips & advice on this tough topic.
While we’re not legal experts, and you should ALWAYS consult with your agency’s attorney, we’re using this chat space to get you #SocialGov best practices, ideas and thoughts on future Q’s to bring up at your agency. #GSMChat— Government Social Media (@GovernmentSM) August 20, 2020
Let’s get started with our first question of the day…
A1: In your policy, don’t forget to educate your electeds on the potential for violating open— Government Social Media (@GovernmentSM) August 20, 2020
meetings laws if a quorum of the body comments on a matter on #SocialMedia, even if it’s on their own time. #GSMChat
These socialgov answers are absolutely important to keep in mind when crafting your policies.
A1. Know what you can and cannot expect. Be clear. Revise often and make changes based upon any recent legal precedents. This is something that needs closely monitored. #gsmchat— Sarah Gamblin-Luig (@CommsDom) August 20, 2020
This next question is tough: Can a government employee’s posts cross the line? This is what your socialgov peers said.
Comments posted on other SM pages can be used as well. Content from other sites has been brought to our attention before from citizens: comments and more. You have to remember that people are watching you. #gsmchat https://t.co/6Mr7wTGsUD— Jamie (@AntiSocialJamie) August 20, 2020
A2. Absolutely, there are limits to everything on social media. It is rarely something that is cut and dry though. And policy has to be applied equally across the board. #gsmchat— Sarah Gamblin-Luig (@CommsDom) August 20, 2020
A2.1: To add to this, some things are easy, like posting private/non-public data, violence and threats, etc. Others, are trickier, like posting racist content, not aligning with the employer's values/degrades public trust, cyber bullying, etc. #gsmchat https://t.co/VwEfNSVQCJ— Jordan Gilgenbach 🍕 (@jgilgenbach) August 20, 2020
It’s important to be aware of the First Amendment when you’re creating and enforcing policies. Let’s talk about freedom of speech, protecting language and any language you could include to protect your agency.
We make it very clear that they can say what they want so long as it doesn't embarrass, disparage, or damage the reputation of the agency, it's employees or any of it's business units or functions. #GSMchat https://t.co/Ly4z1IyhN2— Jamie (@AntiSocialJamie) August 20, 2020
A3: Yes, some "offensive" language can be protected. BUT, instead of thinking how you could potentially get away with it, think about if you are representing your agency well when doing so. It could come back to bite you like a boa constrictor. #gsmchat https://t.co/2cngDCZmHD— Mark Van Baale (@markvanbaale) August 20, 2020
A3: As the ever wise @Fueldrum recently put it, just because you have free speech doesn't mean it's free from consequences. And consequences always come in varying degrees of severity.— Jordan Gilgenbach 🍕 (@jgilgenbach) August 20, 2020
The key: Use common sense. Which is apparently ever difficult to find. #gsmchat https://t.co/Y84FeCoFiz
For employees, including elected officials, what could be some gray areas to consider when posting on personal profiles?
Socialgov peers brought up really great questions (and helpful advice!) on how to handle these potentially confusing areas:
Private profiles. We've had some comments/posts brought to our attention but couldn't find them bc they were on a private page. If I don't have access to verify it's a real comment/post and all I have is this printed piece of paper handed to me by someone - what do I do? #gsmchat https://t.co/20Pz4PrZRw— Jamie (@AntiSocialJamie) August 20, 2020
A4: This exact question came to mind for me recently. Just because someone has a "personal profile" as an elected official, are they allowed to say whatever they want even if they share official govt. business on their page? #gsmchat https://t.co/gD3YcWH869— Mark Van Baale (@markvanbaale) August 20, 2020
A4.3: For elected officials, before posting content, consider which "hat" you're wearing. Is this you, an individual? You, campaigning? You, elected official in your official government capacity? Then, posting on the right profile accordingly. #gsmchat— Jordan Gilgenbach 🍕 (@jgilgenbach) August 20, 2020
A4: Legally, I don't think it's a gray area, but I have found that distinguishing between an elected's official/personal/campaign social presence is definitely confusing for most. I'd love a world where electeds have a 4-hr workshop with legal upon being sworn in. #gsmchat— The Calamari Comeback Kate of Rhode Island (@hipster_mother) August 20, 2020
What’s your best advice for when someone reports an employee’s social post? Most govies were on the same page with this last question of the day on this week’s GSMChat.
Q5: Immediately forward to the City Attorney for advice🌈 #gsmchat— The Calamari Comeback Kate of Rhode Island (@hipster_mother) August 20, 2020
A5. Listen. Verify. If it needs to be escalated do so following the appropriate procedures. If it isn't your place to do any of that, try to direct the reporting person to the proper authority. #gsmchat— Sarah Gamblin-Luig (@CommsDom) August 20, 2020
We appreciate the socialgov community supporting each other, sharing tips & helpful resources! For a full recap of the Aug. 20, 2020, Government Social Media Chat, you can read through the whole chat on Wakelet.
Government Social Media Chat is your chance to get advice and ideas from your government social media peers across the U.S. We e-meet on Twitter bi-weekly to unpack social media issues specific to the socialgov community, share thoughts through guided questions and destress together. Search “#GSMChat” on Twitter every other Thursday to join in.
Best communicate with the public you serve by becoming a part of the free Government Social Media network — only available to full/part-time employees of government or educational institutions. Get access to socialgov-specific resources, like the COVID-19 SocialGov Hub group, and other organized content. Virtually collaborate with each other, share advice, get input, tips & more by joining the Government Social Media network today.