Virginia Public Records Law & Social Media
Social media records in Virginia are governed by the Virginia Public Records Act. This law covers all information that documents activities of public agents or agencies, regardless of the physical form or characteristics. Content created on social media platforms may meet the definition of a record under this act and should be retained accordingly.
“Public record” or “record” means recorded information that documents a transaction or activity by or with any public officer, agency or employee of an agency. Regardless of physical form or characteristic, the recorded information is a public record if it is produced, collected, received or retained in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business. The medium upon which such information is recorded has no bearing on the determination of whether the recording is a public record.
Guidelines from the Library of Virginia on Social Media as Public Records
The Library of Virginia is responsible for archiving and managing records under the Act and provides guidance to the legislature when amendments to the law are considered. The Library offers tip sheets on managing electronic records of all types, including social media. The Library’s guidance on social media clearly identifies situations in which social media is public record requiring retention, including any post that receives comments.
The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to state and local government agencies regarding the retention of public records of posts to social networking sites such as blogs, wikis, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
Agencies need to consider the following five factors when managing the retention of their public records created or received through social networking sites.
1. Are the posts public records?
If posts are made or received in connection with the transaction of the agency’s public business (such as providing advice on or receiving comments about the agency, its programs, core business, etc.), then they are public records and need to be retained for their full retention period.