What can we help you find today?

Social Media and Open Records Laws

Print This PagePrint This Page Send by EmailSend by Email
Reviewed Date: April 17, 2020

Original Author: 
Jones, Bonnie
Date of Material: 
Aug 3, 2012


Subjects:
Social networking
Records management--Open records--Laws and regulations

Social Media and Open Records Laws

Summary: 
MTAS was asked about records retention and the Open Records Act as it applies to social media pages.


From: Jones, Bonnie Curran
Sent: Friday, August 03, 2012 10:13 AM
Cc: Josh Jones
Subject: RE: Social Media

Hi Assistant City Administrator,

Starting social media pages takes time and patience, as it is not going to be an instant success. Think about keeping content interesting and relevant to the citizens and occasionally asking them for feedback on something fun such as community events etc. You can even put a link to a formal survey and collect citizens’ feedback that way via an electronic survey (i.e., survey monkey). There are endless possibilities for how your city can go about using social media as a means to communicate with citizens- so consider starting small and growing those avenues slowly. You can post schedules and notices of meetings, but please make sure there are other places those are posted, as not all citizens will use social media to look for meeting notices and agendas.

I understand the open records part of Social Media to mean that yes, even your city’s social media page is subject to open records laws. What I recommend cities do is to put a message on the FB page that directs any messages or comments requiring dialogue to the city’s website or email address, so the page is informational only. I would recommend turning commenting off (if that is an option when you develop your city’s fan page), and being clear that this is for informational purposes only and any issues or complaints need to be sent directly to the city and include the contact information on the page. (see sample C below). If for some reason there is a dialogue that will need to be kept for open records purposes, your city can leave the post there (and not delete it) and or make screen prints and file copies in case of future issues. I don’t see that being an issue if you actively manage your page.

You shouldn’t have to do anything special in terms of printing off screens etc., but I am copying Josh Jones, our Attorney that wrote the Open Records Manual for cities.

1. Attached is a sample policy from Bean Station that I thought was well written. Obviously your city will want to tweak the policy as you go- but it is a good starting point. This was written by the Police Chief but could easily be tweaked to apply to all employees.

2. Some sample City pages to consider

A) Here is the City of Franklin’s Social Media Page: https://www.facebook.com/CityOfFranklinand they post a rule sheet about what is allowed on their social media page

• To provide local citizens with information about government programs and services
• To provide a platform for citizens to share and engage in dialogue with one another.

This message is posted on their page.

Criteria for Posting Information on City of Franklin Page

Fans of the City of Franklin are encouraged to post information about issues affecting the City’s residents. We encourage discussion and varying viewpoints. However, the City of

Franklin will not feature:

• Nudity/pornography, adult and/or hate language, tobacco, alcohol or similar information
• Activities restricted to adults
• Tobacco products
• Hostility or violence
• Attacks on ethnic, racial or religious groups
• Illegal discrimination against any group
• Illegal or inappropriate use of firearms or drugs, or any illegal activity
• Sexual, obscene or indecent or explicit messages
• Sexual overtone or innuendo
• Products or services with sexual overtones such as massage parlors, escort services, or establishments featuring for show or sale x-rated or pornographic movies materials or performances
• False, misleading or deceptive sponsorships/advertisements
• Language or information that is obscene, foul, vulgar, scurrilous or scatological.
Information harmful to children or is of a nature to frighten children, either emotionally or physically
• Cruelty to animals
• Online casino gaming, gambling or betting
• Information affiliated with or promoting political campaigns
• Programs and events not officially sponsored by the City of Franklin
• Solicitations for donations, except for official City-sponsored activities
• Endorsements of specific brand name products or services for advertising or marketing purposes.
• Products and services not affiliated with the City of Franklin

B) City of Knoxville’s is here, and it looks like they allow questions and some dialogue, but that would mean leaving the information up as long as it doesn’t violate the rules. https://www.facebook.com/CityofKnoxville

C) Brentwood- (Which is what I recommend- see below)

About

Thank you for visiting our Facebook page. This page is not intended to be a public forum, and any comments posted to this page will be deleted. Please send your comments and questions to us at info@brentwood-tn.org.
General Information

Please refer to
https://www.facebook.com/notes/city-of-brentwood-tennessee-local-government/purpose-and-policy-for-the-city-of-brentwood-facebook-pages/1221843851205036/for the privacy policy and disclaimers that apply to this Facebook page.

The City has two Facebook pages - one for general City news and information and one for Library specific news and programs.

https://www.facebook.com/City-of-Brentwood-Tennessee-Local-Government-341374074160/

• General City news about upcoming events and meetings such as City Commission meeting, Crockett Park concerts, etc.
• Road and utility construction project updates
• Links to meeting agendas, minutes, videos, etc.
• Other items of importance to the public

The Brentwood Library Facebook page:

• Information about upcoming Library programs and events
• Updates on new services or materials

Brentwood directs their FB page viewers to the following link for their privacy and records policy. http://www.brentwoodtn.gov/about-us/privacy-policy-and-disclaimer. The policy reads:

Privacy Policy & Disclaimer

Thank you for visiting the website of the City of Brentwood. This website (www.brentwood-tn.org) is intended for use by the general public as a means to access information and services about the City. Efforts are made to ensure that the information presented is complete and accurate. Updates, additions and corrections are ongoing. However, the City does not guarantee the accuracy of all information and disclaims any liability resulting from your reliance on information which is determined to be inaccurate. You may wish to confirm information such as event date and location immediately prior to the event to verify any changes. The City of Brentwood may also disseminate information through various social networking services, such as Facebook, Nixle and Twitter, and this privacy policy and disclaimer applies to any and all of the social networking services used by the City.
We will collect no personal information about you except for statistical purposes when you visit our website except where you choose to provide that information to us. We do not give, share, sell, or transfer any personal information to a third party without consent. 

Usage of Cookies 
A cookie is a tiny piece of text that is placed on your computer's hard drive. If your browser is set to notify you before accepting a cookie, you will receive a request for a cookie to be stored on your computer. We do not use cookies to record any personal information. Cookies may be used by some City web applications to pass needed information from one page to the next. Rejecting a cookie in these applications will render the application useless. We want to be sure you understand that accepting a cookie in no way gives us access to your computer or any personal information about you. We know that some citizens have concerns about cookies, but the benefit we both gain from their proper use is worthwhile. 

We analyze user traffic patterns on our web portal from information automatically provided by your browser when you visit our site. We use the statistical information gathered to measure site and server performance and continually improve the content of our sites to better serve you. The City does not use the information automatically collected to ascertain personally identifiable information. 

Information provided by you 
Information volunteered by you through your filling out of our optional online feedback form is used to help us enhance our web sites, and may be shared with City of Brentwood and contractors for that purpose. We do not sell, rent, or publish any of our visitors' personal or private information. We do not reveal specific information about subscribers or other personally identifiable data to unaffiliated third parties for their independent use, except if required to do so by the Tennessee Freedom of Information Act or other law. In addition, we endeavor to restrict employee access to any personal information except where necessary to perform required duties. 

Links to other sites 
The Web site contains hyperlinks to web sites created & maintained by organizations other than the City of Brentwood. These links are provided for your reference and convenience only. The City of Brentwood does not control other web sites and is not responsible for their content; nor does the City of Brentwood's inclusion of links to such web sites imply any endorsement of the material, products, or services on the web sites or any association with their operators. Once you link to another site, you are subject to the policies of that site. The privacy policies and procedures described here do not necessarily apply to those sites as they are not under our control. We suggest contacting these sites directly for information on their data collection and distribution policies. To avoid confusion all external links will appear in a new separate browser window. 

Site security 
We monitor network traffic to identify unauthorized attempts to upload or change information or to otherwise cause damage to the site. Anyone using this Web site expressly consents to such monitoring. We have security measures in place to protect the loss, misuse and alteration of the information under our control.

ACCESSIBILITY STATEMENT 

Thank you for visiting the City of Brentwood web site and reviewing our accessibility statement. The pages on this site have been reviewed and revised to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. The City of Brentwood is continually striving to meet the needs of its citizens. The design and development of the City of Brentwood website ensures that web sites created by the City of Brentwood serve the largest possible audience. Compliance with general accessibility principles provides an added benefit to those users with text-based browsers, low-end processors, slow modem connections and/or no multi-media capabilities on their computer. We do our best to support the following Internet browsers: Netscape and Internet Explorer versions 5 and newer. We make use of pop-up windows in various places within the City of Brentwood site. Disabling pop-up or spawned windows may adversely affect use and or user experience of the City of Brentwood site.

DISCLAIMER 

Content 
Each department within the City of Brentwood is responsible for content relating to it. 

United States and foreign copyright laws and international conventions protect the contents of the Site. You agree to abide by all copyright notices. 

External Links 
Some links on the Site lead to websites that are not operated by the City of Brentwood. The City of Brentwood does not control these websites nor do we review or control their content. The City of Brentwood provides these links to users for convenience. The linkage does not imply an endorsement of products, services, or information, and does not imply an association between the City of Brentwood and the operators of the linked website. 

Indemnity 
You agree to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the City of Brentwood and its employees from any and all liabilities and costs incurred by Indemnified Parties in connection with any claim arising from any breach by you of these Terms and Conditions of Use, including reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. You agree to cooperate as fully as may be reasonably possible in the defense of any such claim. The City of Brentwood reserves the right to assume, at its own expense, the exclusive defense and control of any matter otherwise subject to indemnification by you. You in turn shall not settle any matter without the written consent of the City of Brentwood. 

Disclaimer of Warranty 
You expressly understand and agree that your use of the Site, or any material available through this Site, is at your own risk. Neither the City of Brentwood nor its employees warrant that the Site will be uninterrupted, problem-free, free of omissions, or error-free; nor do they make any warranty as to the results that may be obtained from the use of the Site. The content and function of the Site are provided to you "as is," without warranties of any kind, either express or implied, including, but not limited to, warranties of title, merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose or use, or "currentness". 

Limitation of Liability 
In no event will the City of Brentwood or its employees be liable for any incidental, indirect, special, punitive, exemplary, or consequential damages, arising out of your use of or inability to use the Site, including without limitation, loss of revenue or anticipated profits, loss of goodwill, loss of business, loss of data, computer failure or malfunction, or any and all other damages.

TERMS OF USE 

General Terms of the Agreement 
Your access to and use of the City of Brentwood web site is subject to the following terms and conditions, as well as all applicable laws. Your access to the Site is in consideration for your agreement to these Terms and Conditions of Use, whether or not you are a registered user. By accessing, browsing, and using the Site, you accept, without limitation or qualification, these Terms and Conditions of Use. There are sections of the City of Brentwood's website that connect you to other sites outside of the control of the City of Brentwood. These terms and conditions apply only to those areas that are registered under the City of Brentwood name and its agencies. Refer to the Terms of Use of those sites outside of the City of Brentwood's control. Also see Disclaimer. 

Modification of the Agreement 
The City of Brentwood maintains the right to modify these Terms and Conditions of Use without notice. However, at the discretion of the City of Brentwood, the City of Brentwood may do so by posting notice of such modifications on this page. Any modification is effective immediately upon posting the modification unless otherwise stated. Your continued use of the Site following the posting of any modification signifies your acceptance of such modification. You should periodically visit this page to review the current Terms and Conditions of Use. 

Conduct 
You agree to access and use the Site only for lawful purposes. You are solely responsible for the knowledge of and adherence to any and all laws, statutes, rules and regulations pertaining to your use of the Site. By accessing the Site, you agree that you will not:

  • Use the Site to commit a criminal offense or to encourage others to conduct that which would constitute a criminal offense or give rise to a civil liability;
  • Post or transmit any unlawful, threatening, libelous, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, pornographic, profane, or otherwise objectionable content;
  • Use the Site to impersonate other parties or entities;
  • Use the Site to upload any content that contains a software virus, "Trojan Horse" or any other computer code, files, or programs that may alter, damage, or interrupt the functionality of the Site or the hardware or software of any other person who accesses the Site;
  • Upload, post, email, or otherwise transmit any materials that you do not have a right to transmit under any law or under a contractual relationship;
  • Alter, damage, or delete any content posted on the site;
  • Disrupt the normal flow of communication in any way;
  • Claim a relationship with or speak for any business, association, or other organization for which you are not authorized to claim such a relationship;
  • Post or transmit any unsolicited advertising, promotional materials, or other forms of solicitation;
  • Post any material that infringes or violates the intellectual property rights of another; or
  • Collect or store personal information about others.

Termination of Use 
The City of Brentwood may, in its sole discretion, terminate or suspend your access and use of this Site without notice and for any reason, including for violation of these Terms and Conditions of Use or for other conduct which the City of Brentwood, in its sole discretion, believes is unlawful or harmful to others. In the event of termination, you are no longer authorized to access the Site, and the City of Brentwood will use whatever means possible to enforce this termination. 

Property Rights
All images and text on the City of Brentwood website are the property of the City of Brentwood and are protected by applicable laws. Republication or redistribution of content without the prior written consent of the City of Brentwood may be prohibited by law.

Choice of Law
Construction of the disclaimers contained in this website and resolution of disputes concerning these disclaimers are governed by the laws of the State of Tennessee.

Contact Us 
If you have any questions or concerns about the City of Brentwood online policy for this site or its implementation or if you find incorrect information or to seek permissions that fall outside of the guidelines above, you can contact the 
Technology Department

3. As you can see, some cities will only allow informational posts and will direct any questions or issues to a city employee via email and keep the page as more informational only. This is how Brentwood operates and I think it is safest for purposes of open records and management of the page.

4. I think you should consider having your FB, Twitter, and social media outlet links put on your city’s main web page (like all these above cities do). The web page can contain the details whereas the social media posts will be directing traffic to the website for more details and to contact the city, if needed.

5. I have attached a few other documents that I think you may find as good resources.

This is a good starting point. Let me know if you want more detail, as I have tons of sample policies and articles, presentations, etc. We can also set up a meeting or a conference call as well.

Thanks,

Bonnie

Bonnie C. Jones, M.A.Ed .| MTAS Human Resources Consultant


Attachment(s):

About Our Knowledgebase

Information written by MTAS staff was based on the law at the time and/or a specific sets of facts. The laws referenced may have changed and/or the technical advice provided may not be applicable to your city or circumstances. Always consult with your city attorney or an MTAS consultant before taking any action based on information posted to this website.