Internal Policy

Purpose: This document establishes policy for the employee use of social media.

Application: This policy applies to all Digital Services Georgia employees.

Background: Digital Services Georgia encourages the use of social media by employees to enhance communication and increase awareness of Digital Services Georgia’s mission. We also encourage, but do not regulate, use of social media throughout the State of Georgia by other state agencies and elected officials.

As the technology continues to evolve and change, this document will also adapt. But, in general, it will serve as a guide for the proper use of technology by Digital Services Georgia employees. The use of social media technology follows the same standards of professional practice and conduct associated with everything else we do. Common sense and appropriate judgment help avoid the most provoking issues.

Definitions: "Social media" and “Web 2.0” are umbrella terms that encompass various activities. Social media and Web 2.0 can come in many forms – such as blogs, wikis, photo and video sharing, podcasts, social networking, mashups, and virtual worlds.

Purpose

This document defines the social networking and social media policy for Digital Services Georgia, our “Agency.” To address the fast-changing landscape of the Internet and the way residents communicate and obtain information online, our Agency will use social media tools to reach and interact with a broader audience. Our Agency encourages the use of social media to further the goals of our Agency, where appropriate.

Our Agency has an overriding interest and expectation in deciding what is “spoken” on its behalf on social media sites. This policy establishes guidelines for the use of social media.

Acceptable Use

Personal Use

All Agency employees may have personal social networking, Web 2.0, and social media sites. These sites should remain personal in nature and be used to share personal opinions or nonwork related information. Following this principle helps ensure a distinction between sharing personal and agency views.

Agency employees must never use their agency email or password in conjunction with a personal social networking, Web 2.0, or social media site. It is critical that social media tools used by employees of the Agency be used in a responsible manner. As with email and other electronic communications, social media and Web 2.0 must comply with the Georgia Open Records Act. Therefore, all official communication by Agency employees with citizens of the State should be appropriate, respectful, and factual.

Posting and Sharing on Personal Sites

Employees must use discretion and common sense when posting and sharing on social media sites. Government employees and those that represent the Agency are held to a higher standard when it comes to freedom of speech and what is shared on personal social media pages. Even if your job title or the Agency name is not associated with your personal social media, disciplinary action can be taken if this policy is violated.

The following are examples of social media activity that will invoke disciplinary action:

  • Complaining about your job/job duties
  • Engaging in personal attacks or offensive terms towards anyone, including coworkers
  • Discussing/sharing information that is privy to Agency employees only
  • Discussing illegal activities or acting illegally

All employees should consider whether personal thoughts published on personal social sites might be misunderstood or construed as expressing Digital Services Georgia opinions. You should assume your team and those outside Digital Services Georgia will read what is written. Assume your thoughts are in the public domain and can be consumed and discussed in all forms of media. What you assume is private is not always private.

As a representative of Digital Services Georgia, you must always assume your position with the Agency is known. By doing so, you are also obligated to position yourself on social media sites, even in the personal realm, in the same manner you would as a professional at the Agency. Have no assumption of privacy.

Guidelines for Personal Use

The following guidance is for Agency employees who decide to have a personal social media, Web 2.0, or social networking site or who decide to comment on posts about official Agency business:

  • Never use or reference your position with an agency when writing in a non-official capacity. When in doubt, consult with your manager to formulate a proper response;
  • Use a disclaimer such as: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t reflect or represent the opinions of the agency for which I work.”
  • “Retweets do not equal endorsement” is not sufficient language to protect an employee if an issue arises.
  • Use caution when “Liking” or sharing posts on social media. In recent court cases, employees have been terminated or disciplined for “Liking” or sharing racially-charged, illegal, or inappropriate posts. In this case, courts have ruled a “Like” equals voluntary speech.

Agency Use

All official agency-related communication through social media, Web 2.0, and social networking outlets should remain professional in nature and should always be conducted in accordance with our Agency’s communications policy, practices, and expectations. Employees must not use official agency social media, Web 2.0, or social networking sites for political purposes, to conduct private commercial transactions, or to engage in private business activities.

Agency employees should be mindful that inappropriate use of official agency social media, Web 2.0, and social networking sites can be grounds for disciplinary action. If social media, Web 2.0, and social networking sites are used for official agency business, the entire agency site, regardless of any personal views, is subject to best practices, guidelines, and standards.

Only individuals authorized by our Agency may publish content to an agency website or state agency social networking sites.

Approval and Registration

All Agency social media sites shall be:

  1. approved by Nikhil Deshpande, or acting Director of Digital Services Georgia;
  2. published using approved social networking platform and tools; and
  3. administered by the contact or their designee.

Oversight and Enforcement

When you are representing the Agency, the Agency is responsible for the content you share. Employees representing our Agency through social media outlets must maintain a high level of ethical conduct and professional decorum. Failure to do so is grounds for revoking the privilege to participate in agency social media sites, blogs, or other social media features.

Information must be presented following professional standards for good grammar, spelling, brevity, clarity, and accuracy. Presented information must avoid jargon (except where appropriate as determined by the audience) such as obscure terminology and acronyms.

Agency employees recognize that the content and messages they post on social media websites are public and may be cited as official Agency statements. Social media should not be used to circumvent other agency communication policies, including news media policy requirements.

Agency employees may not publish information on agency social media sites that includes:

  • Confidential information
  • Copyright violations
  • Profanity, racist, sexist, or derogatory content or comments
  • Partisan political views
  • Commercial endorsements or SPAM
  • Derogatory or negative comments about the job, agency, or employees

Accessibility

Although laws have not been extended to include accessibility for state government social media sites, appropriate effort should be made to make all social posts accessible. Best practice is to follow accessibility guidelines for websites to include, colors, images, videos, fonts, and other accessibility best practices. Assume that in any legal situation your social sites will be treated just like your website.  

Records Retention

Social media sites contain communications sent to or received by our Agency, and such communications are therefore public records subject to the Georgia Open Records Act. These retention requirements apply regardless of the form of the record (for example, digital text, photos, audio, and video). Our Agency must legally preserve records pursuant to a records retention schedule for the required retention period in a format that preserves the integrity of the original record and is easily accessible. Furthermore, retention of social media records shall fulfill the following requirements:

  • Social media records are captured in a continuous, automated fashion throughout the day to minimize a potential loss of data due to deletion and/or changes on the social networking site.
  • Social media records are maintained in an authentic format (i.e. ideally the native technical format provided by the social network, such as XML or JSON) along with complete metadata.
  • Social media records are archived in a system that preserves the context of communications, including conversation threads and rich media, to ensure completeness and availability of relevant information when records are accessed.
  • Social media records are indexed based on specific criteria such as date, content type, and keywords to ensure that records can be quickly located and produced in an appropriate format for distribution (e.g. PDF).
  • Each employee who administers one or more social networking sites on behalf of our Agency has self-service, read-only access to search and produce relevant social media records to fulfill public information and legal discovery requests as needed.

Our Agency utilizes an automated archiving solution provided by ArchiveSocial to comply with applicable public records law and fulfill the above record retention requirements. Our Agency archive is available at: archivesocial.com.