Colorado Open Records Act & Social Media
The Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) states that public records include all writings made by public agencies, regardless of physical form, including electronic records. A subsequent bill passed in 2017 further defines records requirements for public agencies.
(6) (a) (I) “Public records” means and includes all writings made, maintained, or kept by the state, any agency, institution, a nonprofit corporation incorporated pursuant to section 23-5-121 (2), C.R.S., or political subdivision of the state, or that are described in section 29-1-902, C.R.S., and held by any local-government-financed entity for use in the exercise of functions required or authorized by law or administrative rule or involving the receipt or expenditure of public funds.
(7) “Writings” means and includes all books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics. “Writings” includes digitally stored data, including without limitation electronic mail messages, but does not include computer software.
Social Media Records Guidelines from the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition
The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition offers a white paper that discusses the challenges faced by governments and public agencies who are using new technologies that generate electronic records. In essence, the coalition emphasizes that it is the content that matters when determining what constitutes a public record, not the medium itself.
Colorado FOIC White Paper Text
Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition White Paper
Increasingly, government agencies conduct the vast bulk of public business via digital and cloud-based platforms. Whether it is email, SMS messaging, Facebook or Snapchat, more and more public data and information is generated daily than at any previous period when pen, paper and typewriter were the primary means of written communications. With the rise and use of these technologies come new challenges to obtaining access to public records.
More and more government agencies (not merely individual employees) are contracting with third-party vendors, such as Google’s Gmail, to host all official business communications. Are such writings, maintained “in the cloud” at the behest of a government agency, “public records” of that agency? Under existing law that predated the World Wide Web, they are.
In short, the records retention schedule for electronic or digital records should turn on the content of the record, not its format or title.
Colorado Social Media Records Management in Practice
The City of Englewood offers a great example of a comprehensive social media policy that explicitly applies CORA to social media records in Colorado.
Englewood's Social Media Policy
City of Englewood Social Media Policy (excerpt)
The content on this application, including all public comments, is subject to public disclosure under the Colorado Open Records Act.