Local government agencies are catching up with the general population by using social media to relay information and interact with the community. This can also create challenges in keeping public records.
Any posts on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter through government accounts becomes public records. This includes any comments made by the community. It also includes any posts on government employees' personal accounts relating to government business.
As an example, Grant County (Wash.) Sheriff Tom Jones posted his letter supporting the Second Amendment on his personal Facebook page on Feb. 25. Any comment added by Facebook "friends" becomes public record.
The problem for local governments is how to retain social media records for public records requests.
Grant County employees had until yesterday to sign an updated social media policy. The policy states an employee must keep a form of all social media activity for public record.
Grant County will soon use a third-party company called Archive Social to keep records of social media activity and allow for easy access to social media public records, explains Melissa McKnight, Grant County's public records officer. The company is also used by Spokane County, according to McKnight.
Every post by the county and comment by the public must be documented. Even public comments deleted from a county Facebook page must be recorded.
According to the state open records law, any city or county employee's tweets, blog posts and Facebook posts qualify as public records if they relate to government business. McKnight said employees are not allowed to post county business on social accounts and are aware any posts would become public record.
The Grant County Sheriff's Office is currently using Facebook and the Grant County Fairgrounds is planning to add an account in the near future.
McKnight said she has yet to receive a public records request relating to social media.
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