Original Author: Jones, Bonnie
Date of Material: 08/03/2012
Records management--Open records--Laws and regulations
Reviewed Date: 04/23/2021
MTAS was asked about records retention and the Open Records Act as it applies to social media pages.
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 recommend 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 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. Some sample City pages to consider:
A) Here is the City of Franklin’s Social Media Page: https://www.facebook.com/CityOfFranklin. The City's Facebook page includes 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)
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 email@example.com.
Please refer to
The City has two Facebook pages - one for general City news and information and one for Library specific news and programs.
• 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:
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.
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2. 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.
3. 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.
Bonnie C. Jones, M.A.Ed .| MTAS Human Resources Consultant