“What’s the retention policy for email?” asked a recent participant at the TCEA SysAdmin event. Another tough, companion question might be, “How are you archiving your social media?” As schools transition from newsletters to blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts, archiving expectations arise. The need for archiving public information on smart devices is increasing. Digital public information, subject to open records requests, doesn’t care where it may appear. It may pop up on private devices and email/social media accounts. New laws make the pursuit and tracking of that data legal. Are you ready to provide archived social media? Let’s explore how others have done that and what schools can do now.
“The general forms in which the media containing public information exist include… email, internet posting, text message, instant message, other electronic communication” (Source: Goverment Code Chapter 552, Public Information)
Social Media Archiving in Texas
Did you know that your district’s social media posts are a state record? Social media falls under the Texas Public Information Act (updated September 1, 2019). Let’s take a quick look at open records requests, as well as records retention.
Open Records Requests
As a technology director in the past, I assisted my school district Central Office to respond to open records requests. This often meant providing information in digital, encrypted format to the district’s lawyers. First, though, I had to dig through an email archive (e.g. Google Vault, Datacove) to find pertinent information. With the wealth of social media sharing going on, I shudder to think what that process would have looked like.
Open Records requests under the Texas Public Information Act for social media content must follow the agency’s Open Records (or “Public Information”) Requests Policy. (Source: Open Records Requests, Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) Social Media resource Guide)
Imagine digging up tweets from a Twitterchat or posts on Instagram and Facebook. Stephanie Hawkins cites Texas law in her informative article on the topic. Review the Texas DIR’s Social Media Resource Guide, and you’ll find more expectations.
Peruse this section of the Guide and you’ll find the following:
Content posted by the agency or the public on an agency’s social media website is a state record (Government Code, Section 441.180(11)), and is subject to State Records Retention requirements in Government Code Chapter 441, Subchapter L,441.180-205.
That means that public schools may soon find themselves digging through their staff’s social media shares. What’s your organization or school district’s retention policy for social media? You may want to take another step back and consider what your social media policy is for your district. The Texas DIR’s Social Media Resource Guide offers some detailed recommendations that merit a close reading.
Is Your Tech Department Ready?
Are technology departments staffed to provide social media posts from staff? Worse, what happens when staff delete offending social media posts? What will you do then? A common strategy for individuals involves deleting offending content. They may even disable their account. This makes the offending posts tough to get to via traditional means. That strategy is not available to organizations. Consider the following:
An agency may be prohibited from deleting social media records, regardless of its established records retention policy, if the record is the subject of legal claims or actions (Government Code, Section 441.187). In addition, state and federal courts require the preservation of relevant records if a judicial or administrative action is reasonably foreseeable, even if such action is not yet initiated.
Do your district leaders work with data on their personal/home smartphones or laptops? If so, government entities now have the power to require access to public information stored on those private devices. On September 1, 2019, the Public Information Act (PIA) was updated. Senate Bill 944 gives government officials the power to look at public information on private devices. This means you need to find a way to document and keep records of communications, no matter where they originate or are kept.
Reflections on Social Media Use
Do you keep your private and public work separate? You may need to in light of SB 944. Most of us keep our private and public data on one device. We use private devices to handle public information. Many teacherpreneurs do this, but they may need to reconsider their “one account for personal and work” approach. Educators are reaching out via social media. They use social media in powerful ways that enhance teaching, learning, and leading. What happens when that open records request comes in for social media? Will it sweep up personal tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts? What about Snapchat in the Classroom? Some juggle many accounts in one app, while others use one account for private and public. Let’s take a quick look at two relevant areas.
Area #1: Disclaimers
While many post disclaimers, they may not be as effective as they once were. Disclaimers can be problematic for employers, but not for the reason you might think.
The more you control [employee accounts and employee behavior on social media], the more you will be legally responsible for everything that happens” (Source: Heather Bussing, “Eight Reasons Social Media Policies Backfire,”HR Examiner)
Educators are relying on disclaimers as a way to distinguish between private and public. While this may work for now, they also need to develop a strategy for rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s. That is, public information traded on private devices and accounts.
Area #2: Social Media Management
Instead of trying to channel both public and private information through one social media account, some separate the two. That means they have two (or more) accounts for each social media service. If called on to produce public/work information, it’s easy to provide the username and password for the work account. No risk to private or personal information of the employee occurs. Tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout Social) make it easier to funnel content automatically. Facebook and Instagram have also worked to make multi-account logins possible. This makes it easier to see and share to work-connected accounts. It also simplifies the number of apps you have to have on your device. Instead of needing four to eight apps, you can switch accounts as needed with the native app (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).
Problems Ahead: Towards School-Issued Social Media?
If you use your private social media account for sharing public information, you may run into a problem. What would happen if your private account got swept up in a review trying to capture public information sharing? Some may come to the same realization I did. Keep private and work separate, even if your disclaimers are in place. Until now, it was a free for all as to who created social media accounts. We may soon find ourselves using school-issued accounts. Can you see yourself with a school-issued Facebook? How about Twitter or Instagram? Now imagine yourself logging into those accounts with a single-sign on (SSO) solution. That might end the problem that schools face. In the meantime, social media archiving solutions may be an intermediary step. Remember, “courts require the preservation of relevant records.” So, how do we do that? This video may provide some insight.
Social Media Archiving (SMA) Solutions
Getting a SMA solution may help technology departments and assist those who don’t have time to dig across social media in response to an open records request. Email archiving solutions sprang up in response to demand and now social media archiving solutions are appearing. Here are a few for your consideration. Pricing for most was not viewable on their sites.
- ArchiveSocial: It is a social media archiving solution for public agencies and K-12 districts. Use it to maintain public records of social media. Per their website, “ArchiveSocial connects directly to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to capture and preserve the content on your pages – ensuring you can easily respond to records requests.” View their ebook, Solution Overview. You can find a price overviewon their website.
- Jaethon: In use by NorthEast ISD in San Antonio, Texas, Jaethon offers both email and social media archiving. They offer an ebook and onsite videos to expand your understanding.
- MirrorWeb: Adapted from their website: “Significant moments occur on websites and social media channels all the time. We want to save them. So we provide digital archiving of online electronic publications.”
- PageFreeze: Adapted from their website, it takes compliance and litigation off your plate. It automates archiving your websites, social media. You can access the archived items via a cloud-based dashboard.
- Smarsh: “Helping regulated organizations to capture, archive and supervise the newest communication channels to meet compliance and e-discovery challenges head-on.”
In their ebook (linked above), Jaethon points out the following benefits of adopting a social media archival solution:
- Capturing and archiving messages and posts through a variety of capture
methods, from proxy-based to endpoint capture;
- Stopping unauthorized access and limiting liability through access controls, rogue account identification, identity management and disclaimers
• Stopping rogue posts with pattern-matching technology;
• Notifying admins about where stopped posts originated with alerts
• Implementing restrictions on messages that contain time-sensitive data or words and patterns that require further review with supervisory
• Automating all of these processes
Start Thinking About Social Media Archiving
Now is a good time to begin to think about your district’s needs in relation to social media archiving. Let me know if you have any questions or discover even more solutions!
Do you know if we have to archive PTO and booster club social media pages or just ones directly tied to the district?
Hi, Zachary. The answer lies in the second part of your question. “Social media directly” managed by the District and its employees. Make sure your PTO and Booster Club folks are not district staff. If they are, then social media accounts should be managed by the District. It’s cumbersome but will save headaches later.
So if Booster Club and PTO are not managed or run by school district personnel, then the District isn’t responsible for providing it.
I’m not a lawyer and I would avoid counseling you without your district’s legal team standing by to tell you what they’d be willing to defend.