Social media offers government agencies unprecedented opportunities for engagement with the public. Never before has it been so easy to disseminate information or engage in two-way conversations with constituents.
But while the benefits of social media in terms of increased openness and engagement are significant, the technology also introduces certain demands on public information officials that can quickly become overwhelming. To engage in social media activity is to open the door to countless rapid interactions that are all governed by the same rules and regulations as other forms of official government communication.
What, for instance, are the recordkeeping implications of deleting an inappropriate comment from a Facebook post? And what does the process of capturing a record—of both the original comment and its deletion—look like?
It’s essential that public information officials put a comprehensive strategy in place that governs the recordkeeping of all relevant social media platforms. Here are six important things to consider when developing a plan:
What regulations apply?
The California Public Records Act demands that government agencies preserve public records regardless of physical form. But does a social media post or comment constitute a “public record”? According to the California Records and Information Management Program (CalRIM), a department of the Secretary of State, most content probably does fall under this. The CalRIM Electronic Records Guidebook states that content pertaining to an organization’s official business, mission, and policies would count as a public record, as would anything that documents a controversial issue, involves prominent entities within the constituency, or simply couldn’t be found anywhere else.
When is it captured?
Many organizations simply rely on the social media platforms themselves to retain information, only actively creating a record on their side when some form of intervention is required—in other words, an organization would document an inappropriate comment or tweet before deleting it and keep a record of that. This is a risky approach, however, since it becomes all too easy to miss a crucial change. What happens if a comment is deleted before a record is created? A far better idea is to archive social media data in real-time, ensuring that a complete record is kept of all changes and deletions.
How is it captured?
Many public information officials capture records manually by simply taking screenshots and keeping a record of files on premises. However, when faced with very active social media channels that see lots of engagement your manual process will quickly become overwhelming for your people. Moreover, it invites human error; a deletion can be overlooked, a file can be misnamed, or an entire archive can accidentally be deleted. Automated archiving in real-time is a far better idea, ensuring not only that a complete record of social media activity is kept, but also that the management and use of data become much simpler.
How is data stored?
As alluded to above, the on-premises storage of records introduces the risk of screenshotted files being lost. Also, how does one prove that files have not been tampered with? Ideally, data should be stored in a way that makes data loss impossible, and provides evidentiary-quality records that boast a digital signature and timestamp. A dedicated SaaS archiving solution is the best way to ensure that data is stored securely and lives up to the stringent demands of regulations such as the Federal Rules of Evidence.
How is data retrieved?
Keeping accurate records is one thing, retrieving those records when needed is quite another. Before settling on a specific recordkeeping strategy, it’s worth considering how easy this particular approach would make the search and retrieval of specific information. While simply saving screenshots of social media content can seem like a simple and easy way to keep records, for instance, it can make it difficult and time-consuming to retrieve those records when a specific request comes up.
How are records shared?
Records requests should be dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible, so an organization should consider how it would practically go about sharing requested information. How exactly would information be delivered, and in what file format? The ideal is a public portal that allows free and open access to all online data. The City of Sacramento (webarchive.cityofsacramento.org) offers a great example a portal that is open to all and intuitive to use. By making all data accessible online, almost all of the administrative work related to the response of a request is taken off the hands of public information officials.
PageFreezer is a leading provider of website, social media, SMS/Text and enterprise collaboration archiving and compliance solutions to a wide range of industries including finance, legal, telecom, retail, utilities, government, and post-secondary education. PageFreezer is a SaaS application that enables organizations of all sizes to permanently preserve their website and social media content in evidentiary quality and then access those archives and replay them as if they were still live. Uses for the archived data range from compliance with Open Records Laws and responding to public record requests, to litigation preparedness and evidence capture.
The content of this blog post was developed and produced exclusively by one of NACo’s Corporate Partners, PageFreezer.