Federal Government Reveals Its Social Media Rules

by Jordan Richardson on November 23, 2011

Any organizational body worth its stripes knows the value of social media, but with the power of the medium comes a fair share of responsibilities. A misplaced tweet here and a poorly-worded Facebook status message there can leave a trail of ruin and misperception that can be nearly impossible to repair. Ask Ashton Kutcher if you don’t believe it.

In light of that, Canada’s federal government has released its set of rules for its own use of sites like Twitter and Facebook. The objective is to streamline the civil service by laying out regulations for how bureaucrats can use social networking to put messages out to citizens and one another.

“This is the way bureaucracy works, if you don’t have guidelines they don’t do it because they are afraid of the downside consequences,” Treasury Board president Tony Clement said. “We’re basically saying it’s ok to dialogue with the public, it’s ok to open up government information, it’s ok to be more productive by sharing information, but there is a framework you are going to have to develop.”

The rules cover everything from profile pictures to official languages.

“By virtue of your employment, information shared through Web 2.0 (social media) tools and services may be perceived as an official Government of Canada position rather than your own opinion,” the rules state. “You should therefore clearly state in your account profile that the views expressed are your own and not those of your employer. However, it is important to note that such a disclaimer does not absolve you of your obligations as a public servant, including your duty of loyalty to the Government of Canada.”

Some, like open government advocate David Eaves, suggest that the new rules will diminish how open the government can be because it will entomb communication under layers of government policy and official regulations. Fear of breaking said rules could lead some to be less than frank with their communications, jettisoning honest but irreverent outbursts like Pat Martin’s famous tweet to the proverbial sidelines.

“I don’t think this document makes anyone feel more confident about social media,” Eaves said.

Of course, other governments have had comprehensive social media policies in place for some time now. Canada should be engaging using new tools and technology, but how much control should be implemented through government policy certainly is a matter of some debate.

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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