Tibaldo: Social Media in Government

Consumers atbp.

SOCIAL media has become a valuable tool in disseminating and promoting government programs and services and many public officials and information units today are engaging the public by using popular internet based platform such as Facebook, Tweeter and others including Youtube to boost their advocacy.

As someone who had kept track and followed the utilization of social media from the Friendster to Multiply days, I have likewise encountered and noted some disadvantages and ill-effects that we are hearing about today that even government workers who are supposed to be attending to clients were seen and caught hooked in these social media platforms chatting or posting personal matters.

The matter has reached the attention of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and they have actually caught civil servants or government employees playing mobile games and browsing social media sites during work hours.

I recently got hold of a copy of the CSC Social media Handbook outlining their policy statements, guidelines on office use and content publishing and terms in creating and administering social media accounts. In my case as the administrator of our office account and at the same time the focal person for Freedom of Information, it has been our policy not to post, comment and disclose confidential information or matters concerning our department.

We are also bound with the provisions of the Data Privacy Act therefore, we just cannot respond to inquiries asking us for names, addresses and contact numbers of persons, entities and organizations as we also need to protect the security of our clients.

In accordance with Section 12 of the Data Privacy Act of 2012 (RA 10173), the processing of personal information shall be permitted only if not otherwise prohibited by law and “if the data subject has given his or her consent and if the processing of personal information is necessary and is related to the fulfillment of a contract and in compliance with a legal obligation to which the personal information controller is subject and the processing is necessary to protect vitally important interests of the data subject, including life and health”.

Since all conversations on social media networks are considered public, government workers should know how to moderate the flow of information by separating what is meant as public to that of private or personal.

Well, I have yet to read a unified government policy on social media creation and utilization and I have noted some posted guidelines. The Department of Information and Communication Technology for example came out with a draft stating that “all agencies, whenever practicable, are encouraged to use social media to improve access to government information, to listen to the public’s issues and concerns, and to engage them deeper in consultation”. The DICT draft came up with certain criteria suited for an agency's use like purpose necessitating the platform must be relevant to the fulfillment of the agency's mandate, goals, and purpose. In determining a particular social media platform, the agency must be able to reach their audience or subscribers and provide a feedback mechanism where clients can send messages or exchange information.

The CSC handbook has an etiquette for employees on the use of social media that serves as a general online decorum for all government personnel for professional and personal use. It reads “You are foremost a public servant. While social media use is encouraged, make sure it does not interfere with your job performance. Abide by existing office policy regarding access to social media sites on official time and using government resources. There is a limited amount of personal use that is understood and acceptable. However, this should be done with an understanding of the risk that any improper or excessive use may be placed under scrutiny by the public and the media, and may result in disciplinary action depending on the seriousness of the infraction”. The CSC Etiquette on social media further adds “You are the brand and your office brand is best represented by its people. Be aware of how you present yourself online with colleagues and clients. Your office’s core values should apply to both offline and online behavior. Differentiate personal from professional. In social media, the boundaries between personal use, professional use. And agency use are fluid. Your personal opinions be perceived as that of the agency so always be clear when you are speaking for yourself and not in behalf of your office. A disclaimer may be added to your personal posts to clearly state that your opinion is your own and does not reflect the position or views of your agency.” More on this in my succeeding columns. Thanks.


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