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The Top 5 Reasons Agencies Face Legal Risk With Their Social Media Records

In almost every state, government agencies are receiving records requests related to their social media.

In our work with 1000 government agencies throughout the country, we’ve compiled the top five mistakes that agencies make with their social media record keeping that exposes them to legal risk.

1. Using screenshots to respond to records requests.

Using screenshots to maintain social media records is not only time-consuming, but also insufficient for responding to records requests. Screenshots do not capture changes to records over time, including deleted content and revisions to content.  Additionally, screenshots do not include the metadata of social media posts, the information which validates authorship, timing, and other information, and which is necessary for the records to be submissible in court.

2. Failing to archive deleted or edited comments.

Social media conversations are constantly changing.  Your agency has no control over what others post on your page, and when this content is edited or deleted.  Failing to archive deleted and edited content puts your agency at risk of being unable to respond properly to a records request, and unprepared to defend itself in court.

3. Relying on the social networks to archive.

Social media networks have no legal obligation to maintain social media archives.  Downtimes on the social networks that can lead to the loss of records, and revisions to content (e.g., edited comments, deleted posts) are often not maintained.  Additionally, it can be difficult and time-consuming to find and produce the specific posts necessary to comply with a records request.

4. Not having a social media policy that is consistently enforced.

A social media policy can be one of the best ways to protect your agency’s social media pages from legal risk.  However, it must be publicly displayed, and importantly, consistently enforced, to be effective.  The most common topic of social media lawsuits relates to charges of deleted content violating First Amendment rights.  Having a clear policy on deleting and hiding comments is the starting point, but then it is crucial to make sure your staff is trained (and periodically reminded!) on the policy.

5. Not including social media in records requests.

Some public agencies believe that they will never receive a public records request for social media.  However, in many instances, they are already receiving records requests that warrant the production of social media records- even if social media is not explicitly mentioned.  As with email, social media content is a public record, and increasingly, records requests are reflecting this.

To learn more about the public records laws in your state and how to effectively respond to a records request, schedule a call with a social media records specialist.

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To learn how to effectively respond to a records request, schedule a call with a social media records specialist.


If you don’t have something like ArchiveSocial for your social media, you’re playing Russian roulette with your daily public records responsibilities – and that’s not a good idea.

Rebecca Medina Stewart
Director of Public Affairs and Marketing
City of Deerfield Beach, FL

Having ArchiveSocial in place allows us to do advanced searches so that if we do get a [records] request, we would immediately be able to do that search and pull the correct records.

Bronlea Mishler
Communications Coordinator
Skagit County, WA

We use ArchiveSocial to capture that [social media] data for us, and it captures the metadata in the background, which allows us to use that information to be submissible in court, if ever necessary.

Nichol Figueiredo
Public Information Records Access Officer & Webmaster
Framingham, MA

The more players you have within your organization, the more channels you have to manage — you’ll want to consider something automated to capture everything, and that will give your agency peace of mind.

Cheryl Golden
Communications Manager
City of Fremont, CA

ArchiveSocial’s functionality, ease-of-use, compliance, and reporting features are better than their competitors. I was impressed by how simple it was to add accounts and to pull up records. Brilliant!

David Brauhn
Communications Manager
City of Walla Walla, WA