Social Media Records in Tennessee

Tennessee Open Records Act & Social Media

The Tennessee Open Records Act defines public records as, “all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, microfilms, electronic data processing files and output, films, sound recordings or other material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any governmental agency.

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Excerpt from Tennessee Open Records Act

(a)(1) As used in this part and title 8, chapter 4, part 6, “public record or records” or “state record or records” means all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, microfilms, electronic data processing files and output, films, sound recordings or other material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any governmental agency.

Tennessee Social Media Records Guidance from the Attorney General

The Tennessee State Attorney General’s Office released an opinion on the application of the Tennessee Public Records Act to Municipal Social Media Accounts. This opinion states that if government social media accounts are established by law or as a function of official business, “that account and any comments posted on the account constitute public records subject to inspection under the Tennessee Public Records Act.”

View the Tennessee Attorney General's Guidance

Excerpt from the Tennessee Attorney General’s Opinion

Application of Tennessee Public Records Act to Municipal Social Media Accounts

Question 1

Are the social media accounts created and maintained by a municipality a matter of public record?

Opinion 1

To the extent a municipal social media account is made “pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business,” that account and any comments posted on the account constitute public records subject to inspection under the Tennessee Public Records Act

Tennessee Social Media Records Guidance from the Secretary of State

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office acknowledges the applicability of the Tennessee Open Records Act to social media records in Tennessee in their own official social media policy. This policy states, “all posts may be considered to be a public record that is subject to disclosure under Tenn. Code Ann. §10-7-503.”

View the Tennessee Secretary of State's Guidance

Excerpt from the Tennessee Secretary of State Web and Social Media Policies

The Department of State will not post comments that contain abusive, vulgar, offensive, threatening or harassing language, personal attacks of any kind, or offensive terms that target specific individuals or groups.

Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in the comment being removed. The content of all comments are released into the public domain. Do not submit anything you do not wish to broadcast to the general public. All posts may be considered to be a public record that is subject to disclosure under Tenn. Code Ann. §10-7-503.

Tennessee Social Media Records Management in Practice

The Town of Smyrna offers a great example of a comprehensive social media policy that explicitly identifies social media records in Tennessee as public record. The policy is closely modeled after the guidelines issued by the Tennessee Secretary of State and states, “[t]own social media sites are subject to the Tennessee Open Records Act.”

View Smyrna's Social Media Policy

Excerpt from: Town of Smyrna Social Media Policy

10. Town social media sites are subject to the Tennessee Open Records Act. Any content maintained in a social media format that is related to Town business, including a list of subscribers, posted communication, and communication submitted for posting, may be a public record subject to public disclosure. In addition, all Town social media sites shall comply with any and every other applicable Town policy, including the Computer Use Policy, Ethics Policy, and Records Retention Policy.

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ArchiveSocial in Tennessee

If you would like to speak with one of the cities, counties, or agencies in Tennessee that are currently using ArchiveSocial to meet Tennessee Open Records Act requirements, or would like to learn more about how your social media can comply with the law, just use the button below to get in touch.

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