Eight Essential Elements
8. Citizen Conduct
Social media sites, unlike more traditional media such as newspaper or radio, allow for instant two-way public communication between government and citizens. Citizens are able to directly post audio, video, and text to many social media sites. Agencies must decide whether to allow two-way communication, such as the use of comment boxes, and how to handle this engagement with citizens. For agencies that decide to elicit citizen feedback via their official agency social media sites, rules for acceptable conduct of citizens are often developed.
Eleven of the 26 reviewed policies and guidelines addressed the issue of citizen conduct. The documents vary with respect to how they deal with the content of comments. Some issue rules of conduct that are posted on the agency’s site. These rules generally refer to limitations on offensive language, inciting violence, or promoting illegal activity. Similar rules are often already used on agencies’ websites and can be reused for social media purposes. Other policies, such as the policy of the City of Arvada, simply talk about who will have the responsibility of approving public comments without going into detail as to what makes a comment acceptable.
Sample language outlining the preferred conduct of citizens
“Users and visitors to social media sites shall be notified that the intended purpose of the site is to serve as a mechanism for communication between City departments and members of the public. City of Seattle social media site articles and comments containing any of the following forms of content shall not be allowed:
- Comments not topically related to the particular social medium article being commented upon;
- Comments in support of or opposition to political campaigns or ballot measures;
- Profane language or content;
- Content that promotes, fosters, or perpetuates 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;
- Sexual content or links to sexual content;
- Solicitations of commerce;
- Conduct or encouragement of illegal activity;
- Information that may tend to compromise the safety or security of the public or public systems; or
- Content that violates a legal ownership interest of any other party.
These guidelines must be displayed to users or made available by hyperlink. Any content removed based on these guidelines must be retained, including the time, date and identity of the poster when available (see the City of Seattle Twitter
~City of Seattle, Washington