Ohio Public Records Act & Social Media
The Ohio Public Records Act (“Sunshine Law”) requires that government agencies preserve public records regardless of physical form, including electronic records. It also applies this requirement to every public office, officer, official, and institution.
Online certification training on Ohio’s Sunshine Law is now available on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.
Ohio Law Text
(A) “Public office” includes any state agency, public institution, political subdivision, or other organized body, office, agency, institution, or entity established by the laws of this state for the exercise of any function of government.
(D) “Public official” includes all officers, employees, or duly authorized representatives or agents of a public office.
(G) “Records” includes any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristic, including an electronic record as defined in section 1306.01 of the Revised Code, created or received by or coming under the jurisdiction of any public office of the state or its political subdivisions, which serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office.
Social Media Records Guidelines from the Ohio Electronic Records Committee
The Ohio ERC has explored the issue of social media records management in depth and issued guidelines titled “Social Media: The Records Management Challenge” to assist state agencies in applying the Sunshine Laws to social media. This guide clearly lays out the challenges presented by social media records in Ohio, including the risk of relying on social media platforms to capture all of the requisite data.
Ohio ERC's Guidelines
Records Management Challenges
When considering the use of social media, it is important to understand the records and information management challenges that these tools may present users.
1. Capture of Content Capturing records created by social media is important for a variety of reasons. An agency may need to retain a posted record due to the administrative, fiscal, legal or historical value of the information, to fulfill public records requests, as part of a litigation hold, or to ensure that the entity fulfills its responsibility for disposing of those records in accordance with its retention and disposition policy. Retaining social media records can be difficult, especially those that are frequently updated. Some social media platforms have developed tools to assist users with capturing content for retention purposes.
It may be necessary to purchase third‐party tools or develop in‐house applications to electronically capture social media records. Capture strategies must be crafted for particular circumstances and tools. Once captured, agencies must also consider how they will access and search the captured information, which may accumulate quickly. For technical recommendations, consult Information Systems Security Agency (ISSA) or ARMA International.
Ohio Social Media Records Management in Practice
The City of Cleveland offers a great example of a social media policy that explicitly identifies social media content as a public record and identifies the importance of retaining records of non-suitable content that is removed due to non-compliance.
View Cleveland's Social Media Message to Users
III. Public Records
a. Subject to certain statutory exceptions, most documents and records maintained by the City of Cleveland, including but not limited to electronic records, are public records under Ohio law.
b. Any content maintained in a social media format which is related to City business, including but not limited to a list of subscribers, posted comments, and information submitted for posting, may be a public record subject to public disclosure.
c. Records Retention:
i. Records will be maintained for the required retention period in a format that preserves the integrity of the original record and is easily accessible using the approved City social media platform and tools.
ii. Content submitted for posting that is deemed not suitable for posting by a City of Cleveland moderator, shall be retained pursuant to the records retention schedule along with a description of the reason the specific content is deemed not suitable for posting.