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Policy for Official Use of Social Media Sites

(Administrative Policy 9-1)

Approved by:
Board of Supervisors of the County of Sonoma ("County"), and the Boards of Directors of the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District, the Russian River County Sanitation District, Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District, Occidental County Sanitation District, South Park County Sanitation District, and the Board of Directors of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (collectively referred to hereinafter as "Special Districts"), and the Sonoma County Water Agency ("Agency"), and the Board of Commissioners of the Sonoma County Community Development Commission ("Commission"). The County, Special Districts, Agency and Commission are collectively referred to herein as "Local Agencies" or singularly as "Local Agency."
Approved:
April 26, 2011

I. Background

Social networking (as defined below) holds great promise as a tool for Local Agencies to communicate directly with their constituencies regarding issues and services. This policy is designed to support efficient use of these technologies within parameters appropriate for a government agency.

II. Purpose

This policy establishes consistent standards for, and ensures appropriate use of, Social Media administered by a Local Agency.

For the purpose of this policy, the term “Social Media” refers to media that allow users to collaborate and share information with a network of other users or the community as a whole, including but not limited to Facebook©, Twitter©, and YouTube©.

III. Scope

This policy applies to all Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media sites. This policy is not intended to regulate the personal activities of Local Agency employees or contractors with respect to the use of Social Media. References to Local Agency business on personal Social Media sites are insufficient to convert such a site into a Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media Site. A Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media Site is one designed and administered by a Local Agency to represent the Local Agency in an official capacity.

IV. Policy

  1. All official Local Agency presences on Social Media sites are considered an extension of the Local Agency’s network and are subject to all related administrative policies, including but not limited to policies on computer use.
  2. Only authorized individuals shall have permission to create, publish or comment on behalf of a Local Agency on Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media sites.
  3. The official websites for a Local Agency will remain the Local Agency’s primary and predominant Internet presence.
  4. Content on Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media sites shall not be offered in lieu of official information on the Local Agency’s official websites, except when immediate and temporary disclosure of information is appropriate. Posts on sites that are not Section 508 web accessible shall contain “simple” text links to identical material on a compliant website.
  5. Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media sites shall contain a link back to the Local Agency’s official websites, where the announcement, press release, form(s), document(s), online services and/or other information relevant to the matter shall be posted.
  6. Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media site posts are a public record subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act (Government Code §§ 6250 to 6270). Therefore, all Social Media content must be archived and managed in accordance with the applicable records retention schedule.
  7. Public Comments
    1. Employees and contractors maintaining Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media sites that permit public comment shall inform visitors of the intended purpose of the site and provide a clear statement of the discussion topic introduced for public comment so that the public is aware of the limited nature of the discussion and notified that inappropriate posts are subject to removal, including but not limited to the following types of postings, regardless of format (text, video, images, links, documents, etc.):
      1. Comments not topically related;
      2. Profane language or content;
      3. Content that promotes, fosters or perpetuates discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, gender, marital status, status with regards to public assistance, national origin, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation;
      4. Sexual content or links to sexual content;
      5. Solicitations of commerce;
      6. Conduct or encouragement of illegal activity;
      7. Information that may tend to compromise the safety or security of the public or public systems; or
      8. Content that violates a legal ownership interest of any other party.
    2. Employees and contractors maintaining Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media sites that permit public comment shall prominently display, or provide a link to, the below Comment Policy on each online page that displays discussion content.

      Comment Policy:

      The [Local Agency, e.g. “County of Sonoma”] welcomes your comments. The purpose of this discussion is to present information relevant to the stated purpose of this site, regarding matters of public interest in the County of Sonoma. We encourage you to submit your comments, but please note this is a moderated online discussion site and not a public forum.

      Please note that the comments expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of the [Local Agency], its officers, agents, affiliates, or employees. If you have any questions concerning the operation of this online moderated discussion site, please contact us at [insert Local Agency contact information].

      By posting anything to this site, you agree to the following terms:

      • Users will treat others with respect. Users warrant that they own or have permission to post the information contained in their postings, including but not limited to video, photos, or digital reproductions and that no copyright or trademark infringement has taken place due to posting it on this site. Further, the [Local Agency] does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by users on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability whatsoever for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information.
      • Users of this site do not retain any rights over their postings. Postings are intended for public view and any personal information posted constitutes a waiver of any rights to privacy or confidentiality.
      • Once posted, the [Local Agency] reserves the right to delete submissions that contain vulgar language, personal attacks of any kind, or comments that promote, foster or perpetuate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, gender, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, national origin, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation. Further, the [Local Agency] also reserves the right to delete comments that are: (i) spam or include links to other sites; (ii) clearly off topic; (iii) advocate illegal activity; (iv) promote particular services, products, or political organizations; (v) tend to compromise the safety or security of the public or public systems; or (vi) infringe on copyrights or trademarks.

      Policy for Official Use of Social Media Sites, County of Sonoma
    3. Online discussions shall be moderated by a designated staff person. Postings that do not comply with the Comment Policy shall be promptly removed from public view. This includes, but is not limited to, statements, links, video, images, and documents.
    4. Comments may also be invited via email, Facebook Message or Twitter Direct Message to a designated Local Agency or Department official email address.
    5. Comments received online or by email through a Social Media site shall be treated in accordance with all applicable policies and procedures for public input.
    6. The Local Agency or Department maintaining the site is responsible for responding completely and accurately to any public records request made via the site.
    7. Local Agencies shall take measures to prevent inappropriate or technically harmful information and links.
    8. Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media sites that permit public comment are not intended to guarantee the right to protected free speech. Sites shall be monitored regularly and prompt corrective action shall be taken when an issue arises that places, or has potential to place, the Local Agency at risk.
    9. Local Agencies and Departments desiring to permit public comments on Social Media sites shall first secure approval from their Information Services Provider by completing and submitting a Public Comment Readiness Checklist.
  8. Content of Posts
    1. Employees and contractors using Social Media to communicate on behalf of a Local Agency on a Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media site should be mindful that statements posted represent the Local Agency, including its elected officials. Therefore, employees and contractors should use discretion before posting.
    2. Posts should be designed to increase the public’s knowledge, trust, and use of Local Agency services.
    3. Posts should always relate to matters within the scope of the Local Agency’s function and should be consistent with the Local Agency’s public service mission.
    4. To help distinguish Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media sites from non-official (or personal) uses of these tools, Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media sites must state that they are maintained by the Local Agency and that they are subject to the Local Agency’s Social Media Policy.
    5. Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media sites must identify the department responsible for the information displayed, including all descriptions, logos, images, etc. representing Local Agency services.
    6. Confidential or non-public information must not be shared.
    7. Postings must respect copyright laws and reference or cite sources appropriately.
    8. Only information authorized under this Policy shall be posted.
    9. Employees and contractors must not use Local Agency-Sponsored Social Media sites for political purposes or to conduct private commercial activities, except as such uses are specifically permitted by the Local Agency Board. For this reason, links to political or commercial websites are prohibited, unless the Local Agency Board specifically permits such links.

V. Responsibilities

  1. Local Agency Department Heads/General Managers/designees are responsible for:
    1. Managing the department or Local Agency’s site(s) in a manner consistent with this Policy, including content monitoring;
    2. Granting authority to specific individuals to post content on the department or Local Agency’s Social Media site(s) and ensuring that posts are not made by unauthorized representatives;
    3. Maintaining a list of Social Media sites hosted by the department or Local Agency, active account logins and passwords;
    4. Changing passwords when an individual is removed as an administrator; and
    5. Ensuring that all authorized representatives read the Policy for Official Use of Social Media Sites and sign the acknowledgment form signifying that they agree to follow the Policy and all related standards and guidelines.
  2. The Information Services Provider for each Local Agency is responsible for the following duties with respect to that Local Agency:
    1. Identifying and approving all Social Media sites to be administered by the Local Agency, in accordance with departmental input;
    2. Developing, implementing, updating and administering standards, guidelines and procedures for all approved Social Media tools; and
    3. Review and approval of Public Comment Readiness Checklists.

    Except as follows, for the purposes of this policy, the term “Information Services Provider” shall mean and refer to the County of Sonoma Information Systems Department. For the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office “Information Services Provider” shall mean and refer to its Technical Services Bureau and, for the Sonoma County Water Agency, “Information Services Provider” shall mean and refer to its Computer Application and Instrumentation Support Section and the Agency management team.

  3. A Local Agency or department may develop a supplement to append to this Policy that includes policies or procedures unique to systems or services specific to that Local Agency or department, provided that such supplements shall not be less restrictive than this Policy. All such supplements must be reviewed by the relevant Information Services Provider for consistency with applicable technical policies and standards.

VI. Related Documents

  • County of Sonoma Information Systems Department’s Social Media User Standards and Guidelines (under development)
  • All Local Agencies’ Computer Use Policies
  • County of Sonoma Administrative Policy Manual Section 6-1 Policy for Records Retention, Storage & Destruction (intranet access required)
  • Public Comment Readiness Checklist

Contact Information

Web Services Team
Information Systems Department
County of Sonoma
Address
Webmaster
2615 Paulin Drive
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
38.466385, -122.722706

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