Iowa Open Records Law & Social Media
Open records and meetings in Iowa are governed by Chapter 22 in the Iowa code. In defining a “public record,” the Law includes all records “preserved in any medium” as being subject to open records policy requirements. This qualifies social media records in Iowa as public records.
Show Iowa law text
Excerpt from Iowa Open Records Law
3. As used in this chapter, “public records” includes all
records, documents, tape, or other information, stored or preserved in any medium, of or belonging to this state or any county, city, township, school corporation, political subdivision, nonprofit corporation other than a fair conducting a fair event as provided in chapter 174, whose facilities or indebtedness are supported in whole
or in part with property tax revenue and which is licensed to conduct pari-mutuel wagering pursuant to chapter 99D, or tax-supported district in this state, or any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council, or committee of any of the foregoing.
“Public records” also includes all records relating to the
investment of public funds including but not limited to investment policies, instructions, trading orders, or contracts, whether in the custody of the public body responsible for the public funds or a fiduciary or other third party.
Guidance From the Iowa Public Information Board
The Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB) is an independent agency appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the senate, tasked with providing clarification to Iowa’s open meetings and public records laws. The IPIB recommends that the Iowa Open Records Law define “public records” broadly enough to “encompass email messages and other electronic correspondence.” Their guidance suggests social media records in Iowa do qualify as public records and should be preserved under Iowa Open Records Law requirements.
View the IPIB Guidance
Excerpt From Iowa Public Information Board Guidance.
(1) Are email messages and other electronic communications public records? (2) If so, how long must they be kept?
(1) The definition of public records under 22.1(3) is broad enough to encompass email messages and other electronic correspondence. (2) State Records Commission policies govern the maintenance and retention of state agency records. In addition, various sections of the Iowa Code address other public records. For example, Chapter 372.13(5) contains requirements for retention of some city records, such as council minutes, ordinances and resolutions. Local government bodies are encouraged to adopt their own records retention policies and to follow them consistently. Deleting a typical email message under such a policy should pose no legal problems. However, if the message remains retrievable or recoverable then the government body would be obliged to provide it upon request, though the requester can be charged a reasonable fee for retrieval.
Iowa Social Media Records Management in Practice
Iowa City has implemented a comprehensive social media policy that clearly states their social media sites are subject to both the Freedom of Information Act and State of Iowa public records laws. The City has determined that departments are responsible for maintaining social media records in an accessible format and complying with public records requests for social media content. This serves as a strong model for handling social media records in Iowa.
View the City of Iowa City Social Media Policy
Excerpt from Iowa City Social Media Policy.
8. Freedom of Information Act and e-discovery laws and policies apply to social media content and therefore content must be able to be managed, stored and retrieved to comply with these laws.
9. City of Iowa City social media sites are subject to State of Iowa public records laws. Any content maintained in a social media format that is related to City business, including a list of subscribers and posted communication, is a public record. The Department maintaining the site is responsible for responding completely and accurately to any public records request for public records on social media. Content related to City business shall be maintained in an accessible format pursuant to City policy and practice so that it can be produced in response to a request. Wherever possible, such sites shall clearly indicate that any articles and any other content posted or submitted for posting are subject to public disclosure.