The Challenge of Record Keeping on Social Media

Written on Oct 25 2012

The Honolulu Police Department set up a Facebook page as a public forum for governmental communication. However, they did not make their rules of engagement clear. This lead to series of controversial posts that when confronted with, they reactively deleted.

This was a poor reaction. They found out only after they deleted that all communication has to obey government archival laws in place, including social media comments.

Christopher Baker posted multiple times on the Honolulu Police Department’s Facebook page with comments such as, ‘As good as our officers are, the reality is that they are not magical creatures who can teleport around. Your protection is your responsibility. Rely on yourself.’ Captain Andrew Lum, the Facebook page’s manager, later deleted these posts from the page, causing Baker to file a lawsuit claiming this constituted a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech.” source

Any Internet / social media user should be aware that there is in most cases, whether written or unwritten, an online ethics code that should be followed. This code implies that any kind of negative comments or spamming is forbidden – or at least poor form.

After all, it is common sense to think twice before posting insulting messages just as you might think twice before saying something negative to someone out loud. While it is true that the power of social media in general relies on ‘freedom of speech’, do people ever question their exercise of this power in regards to what they post on Facebook or Twitter?

Some do, others do not.

When they do, they usually remove their posts or, after several accusations from other users, they apologize. When they do not, they generate a controversy that spreads their untactful overextension of their freedom of speech to others.

How we react to these people can do more harm than the original controversy they start.

Independent of the outcome of the Honolulu Police Department lawsuit, this debate also presents a powerful case for archiving social media records. When the controversial posts were deleted from the Facebook page, so were their records of it ever existing.

Because the Honolulu Police Department did not actively archived its social media records, recovering these posts was impossible. Not only does this result in significant discovery difficulties, it also presents two central weaknesses in the police department’s management of social media.

  • One, what if an aggressive comment is posted and then deleted by the user him or herself? No record of the post will actually exist. It may not even be seen by the police department before it is deleted. This makes pursuing the individual or recalling the information in the post nearly impossible if litigation arises.
  • Second, government agencies are required by law to keep records of all electronic communications, including social media.

The answer isn’t to avoid social media. In fact, turn on all the notifications, interact more  with the subscribers and be online as much as possible!

It’s best to define a policy ahead of time outlining what constitutes an inappropriate post worthy of deletion. You should only delete comments as a last resort in extreme cases. Often times, it is best to send a calm, collected response as a comment. Remember, your other followers will see this conversation – so use it as an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and expertise.

However, you still do need some tool to actively keep records in place.

With SimplySocial, we developed a software that can integrate with government policy and comply with freedom of information requests, as well as all record keeping laws. We can also send users a copy of the social media policy when their comments are deleted, citing the specific reason why.

Along with other features, the SimplySocial app can improve the ethics and social media deontology of your company – like user control, approval of posts, comments tracking, and more.

Give it a try for a safer online presence!

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