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Govt social media use poses archiving challenge

by Angel Jemmett •
Free resource

For government agencies, social media is becoming an increasingly important tool to communicate with the public. With this comes the need for solutions which help agencies comply with the guidelines for storing social media communications that are deemed public records.

In any situation that social media is used for “business activities” – such as communicating with the public – the published posts are considered official public data. Accordingly, under the Commonwealth’s Archives Act 1983 all Australian agencies must keep “accurate and sufficient” record of all social media posts, which has led agencies in search of effective methods for managing and archiving their online communications.

A range of social media archiving solutions are now readily available to store and manage social media posts. NSW government provides a list of such tools for social media archiving and management. This list of approved tools features cloud and non-cloud based solutions for effective management.

Agencies which opt for non-cloud based tools – due to concerns arising from the use of cloud-based archiving solutions for storing sensitive government information – find that these do not always integrate with corporate systems. The download, capture and exportation of social media communications must still be manually performed, which can include the use of screen captures, Word Documents and PDFs.

Despite these concerns, a number of key players have managed to establish themselves in the emerging online social media archiving market.

Startup company Brolly positions itself as the first social media archiving service designed specifically “with government compliance in mind” for use by the Australian public sector, according to the website. Brolly’s social media archiving offering is currently in use by Federal Government’s Department of Immigration and Border Control, WorkSafe Victoria, Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and Sciences, and the City of Albany council in Western Australia, according to reports in the AFR.

Operating constantly in the background, the cloud-based Brolly collects all social media interactions between the public and government agencies or organisations, even those that are deleted.

Privacy concerns are mitigated by only capturing stand-alone posts issued by the agency and two-way conversations between a government agency and a citizen. No other citizen data is collected.

Other established vendors include Vancouver-based PageFreezer Technologies, which automatically archives social media content in real-time, and Archive Social, which provides social media archiving services to many public sector entities in the U.S.

Patchwork of policies

In addition to the federal legislation, each state and territory has unique laws and policies applying to social media conduct and archiving practice that government agencies must navigate.

Tasmania’s Right to Information Act 2009 and Western Australia’s Electronic Transactions Act 2011 have been developed in response to government social media activity and require that all information held by government authorities, including social media posts, belong to citizens of their respective states. Victoria’s recordkeeping policies directly address the use of mobile technologies, cloud computing and social media.

Other policies that address record keeping requirements include: the New South Wales Social Media Policy and Guidelines, South Australia’s Social Media Guidance for Agencies and Staff and Queensland’s Principles for the Use of Social Media.

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