North Carolina Public Records Law & Social Media
The North Carolina Public Records Law requires that government agencies preserve public records regardless of physical form, including the digital records created through social media. The law applies this requirement to every public office, officer, official, and institution creating social media records in North Carolina.
§ 1321. “Public records” defined
(a) “Public record” or “public records” shall mean all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic dataprocessing records, artifacts, or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of public business by any agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions. Agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions shall mean and include every public office, public officer or official (State or local, elected or appointed), institution, board, commission, bureau, council, department, authority or other unit of government of the State or of any county, unit, special district or other political subdivision of government.
copying, transmitting by electronic mail or facsimile, and every other means of recording upon any tangible thing any form of communication or representation, including letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combinations thereof, and any record thereby created, regardless of the manner in which the record has been stored.
Social Media Records Guidelines from the Office of the Governor
The Office of the Governor of North Carolina issued “Best Practices for Social Media Usage in North Carolina” in 2012 that specifies that both posts by officials and comments made by the public are considered public records.
Posts and Comments Are Public Records:
Like e-mail, communication via agency-related social networking Web sites is a public record. This means that both the posts of the employee administrator and any feedback by other employees or non-employees, including citizens, will become part of the public record.
North Carolina Social Media Records Management in Practice
North Carolina is the first state government in the country to provide the public with free access to an Open Archive of the state’s social media content. The archive can be searched here.
The City of Raleigh offers a great example of a comprehensive social media policy that clearly outlines the impact of the Public Records Law on social media records. The city includes a message similar to the one below on every social media account page administered on behalf of the city to inform users that comments become part of the public record.
Raleigh's Social Media message to users
The City of Raleigh uses social media to interact with residents, businesses and visitors about public issues. Please submit your questions, comments and concerns. Please note this is a moderated online discussion site and subject to North Carolina Public Records Laws, and e-discovery laws and policies.