North Dakota Open Records Law & Social Media
The North Dakota Open Records Law requires that agencies preserve records of all “recorded information of any kind, regardless of physical form or characteristic.” Therefore, social media content in North Dakota qualifies as public record under the Law.
North Dakota Law Text
Excerpt from North Dakota Open Records Law
16. “Record” means recorded information of any kind, regardless of the physical form or characteristic by which the information is stored, recorded, or reproduced, which is in the possession or custody of a public entity or its agent and which has been received or prepared for use in connection with public business or contains information relating to public business. “Record” does not include unrecorded thought processes or mental impressions, but does include preliminary drafts and working papers. “Record” also does not include records in the possession of a court of this state.
North Dakota Attorney General Guidance
In guidelines for the North Dakota Open Records and Meetings Law, the State Attorney General emphasizes that “all government records and meetings must be open” unless there is a specific exception. The document clarifies that “all recorded information regardless of physical form” qualifies as a public record, with examples including e-mail and computer files. Therefore, social media records in North Dakota are also governed by the Law.
North Dakota Attorney General Guidance
Excerpt from the Attorney General’s Guide to North Dakota’s Open Records and Meetings Law.
The public has the right to know how state and local government functions are performed and how public funds are spent. North Dakota has “sunshine laws,” which provide that all government records and meetings must be open to the public unless a specific law authorizes a record or meeting to be closed.
“Record” includes all recorded information regardless of physical form (e.g. paper, e-mail, computer file, photograph, audiotape or recording, video, text message, etc.) that has a connection with how public funds are spent or with the public entity’s performance of its governmental functions or its public business.
North Dakota Social Media Records Management in Practice
The City of Fargo encourages the use of social media for citizen engagement and provides a Social Media Customer Use Policy. The policy allows for removing content that violates content guidelines, but does not require records be retained. Partial policies like this could expose governments to risk such as Freedom of Information Act lawsuits and other headaches.
The City of Fargo's Social Media Policy
Excerpt from the City of Fargo Social Media Customer Use Policy
Social Media Customer Use Policy
The City of Fargo encourages the use of social media as a way to share and receive information related to City functions and services. Social media provides an opportunity to distribute information quickly and efficiently to a large audience and may be used on a day to day basis and during emergency situations.
By engaging with the City using social media, you are agreeing to the following:
We welcome comments that are respectful of the audience, add value to the discussion and do not contain personal attacks or offensive comments.
Comments posted on City of Fargo social media pages are reviewed and may be removed if they violate this policy.
Comments posted on our social media pages must pertain to the posted topic. Comments that do not directly relate to the purpose or topic of the post may be removed. If you would like to share an unrelated comment, submit a service request, or talk with a City representative, please contact the appropriate department. Department contact information is available online at www.cityoffargo.com/departments or by calling the Mayor’s Office at 701-241-1310.
City of Fargo social media pages are not intended for emergency reporting or response. Emergencies must be reported by calling 911.
Users are subject to the Terms of Service of the host site.
Comments posted on City of Fargo social media pages that violate site policy, state or federal law, or existing City of Fargo policies including sexual harassment, discrimination or violence are prohibited and will be removed.