Social media is still relatively new, so it was a pleasant surprise to Meredith Ward, senior policy Advisor at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, that at least 31 states have social media participation policies in place.
In an interview with StateScoop, Ward said that number may be even higher considering there could be some policies NASCIO couldn’t find when completing its issue brief on state use of social media, which looked at SMPPs in particular.
“Our hope is that the states without these policies look at this report and begin to put one in place,” Ward said. “We understand that states are not like some private sector organizations with 10-person social media teams, but the reality is all states are using social media, so it makes sense to have policies in place to guide them.”
NASCIO’s Legal Advisory Working Group took a look at SMPPs, which focus primarily on the guidance and policy given to state employees and how they use social media. In the document, NASCIO says states have come a long way in the past few years implementing these policies, but gaps do remain, particularly in employee discontent, management concerns, public perception and liability.
The brief also addresses issues like inclusion of clauses on confidentiality, ethical conduct, security and privacy and transparency.
“80 percent of CIOs rate the future value of social media as high or essential and the majority believes that social media are working to promote innovative state services,” said NASCIO Executive Director Doug Robinson. “It is our goal that the issue brief, and the sample documents included, serves as a tool for CIOs to be able to continue to take the necessary steps to protect their state’s use of social media.”
One interesting part to watch, Ward said – and differs state governments from their private-sector counterparts – is how to police social media pages without infringing on freedom of speech.
“Companies typically will censor obscene language on their social media outlets, like on Facebook,” Ward said, “but state governments must be careful. A corporation can take that down, but a public sector entity might not be able to.”
Another aspect she said is how to monitor state employee behavior. With employees having their own social media accounts, the issue of what – or what not – an employee can use their personal accounts for, which tend to bridge between both their work and private lives.
“There are a lot of issues to discuss,” Ward said. “We did a lot of research, mostly out of curiosity, and there are a lot of things these SMPPs address, but also a lot of other things the states and CIOs need to think about as well.”
For more information and to view the issue brief visit www.nascio.org/publications/index.cfm#162.