Social media records in Missouri are governed by two different chapters in the Missouri Revised Statutes. In Chapter 109, Public and Business Records, records are defined as any, “document, book, paper, photograph, map, sound recording, or other material, regardless of physical form or characteristics.” This definition includes electronic records.
(5) “Record”, document, book, paper, photograph, map, sound recording or other material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or in connection with the transaction of official business.
The second statute, also known as the Missouri Sunshine Law, has its foundations in Chapter 610 of the Missouri Revised Statutes: Governmental Bodies and Records. As the Missouri Attorney General describes it, “Missouri’s Sunshine Law is the embodiment of Missouri’s commitment to openness in government.” He also notes that, “the Sunshine Law applies to all records, regardless of what form they are kept in, and to all meetings, regardless of the manner in which they are held.”
The Missouri Secretary of State has issued guidelines for social media that clearly indicate that content on social media sites may be considered public record, and that each agency using social media is responsible for keeping these records according to the appropriate retention schedules. The Secretary of State guidelines also indicate that agencies using social media can not rely on the social networks to maintain records, but are responsible for exporting or capturing social media records themselves.
Records Retention and Sunshine Requests
Agencies should not rely on social media sites to retain their documents, as that responsibility lies with the agency. Posts, comments, polls, photographs and other content may be considered records. Agencies should identify staff whose responsibility it is to ensure these records are exported from the social media site or captured in some other way.
Retention periods for records can vary from one day to permanent/transfer to the Missouri State Archives. The retention time will depend on the content of the record. If an agency is unsure how long a record needs to be retained state agencies should refer to the Missouri General Retention Schedule, their Agency Records Disposition Schedule or contact the Division of Records Management. Local agencies should refer to their Records Retention Schedules or contact the Local Records Division. Some social media sites give users the ability to export their information, while others require the use of third party tools. The responsibility to maintain the records resides with the agency, not the social media company.
If you would like to speak with one of the cities, counties, or agencies in Missouri that are currently using ArchiveSocial to meet Missouri’s Public Records Laws, please contact the Sales Team and we’ll put you in touch.