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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To learn how to effectively respond to a records request, schedule a call with a social media records specialist.
Rebecca Medina Stewart
Director of Public Affairs and Marketing
City of Deerfield Beach, FL
Skagit County, WA
Public Information Records Access Officer & Webmaster
City of Fremont, CA
City of Walla Walla, WA