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Why government ministers must archive their social media records

Why are tweets and posts just as critical as traditional records for government transparency? Here are the critical compliance matters you need to know.

Once, social media could have been considered a place for selfies and cat videos. But it has become a powerful tool for communication and engagement with the community, especially for public figures.  

However, with great connectivity comes great responsibility.  

One critical aspect often overlooked is the importance of archiving these social media conversations. Tweets, posts, comments, and messages must be treated with the same reverence as traditional records to avoid legal challenges, public scrutiny, and regulatory non-compliance issues. Let’s delve into why compliant social media recordkeeping is indispensable for government ministers. 

Ensuring transparency and accountability in government communications 

Transparency and accountability are the cornerstones of good governance. When government ministers use social media to communicate with the public – think announcements or polling public opinion – these interactions should be preserved as part of the public record. Not only does archiving social media records provide a historical account of communication, but it also lessens the risk of public scrutiny around actions.  

Consider the 2018 controversy involving a former New Zealand minister where they failed to disclose a meeting that had been arranged through personal communications. This lack of correct recordkeeping led to accusations of a lack of transparency and eventually resulted in their resignation. Although this case did not directly involve social media, it highlights the importance of maintaining comprehensive records of all digital communications.  

Compliance with legal and regulatory recordkeeping requirements 

Federal, State and Local government departments are subject to various legal and regulatory requirements regarding recordkeeping. In Australia, the Archives Act 1983 mandates that Commonwealth records are kept and preserved. This now extends to social media records. 

There are also national standards for information management in Australia and in New Zealand.  

So, what happens when you inadvertently fail to comply with these requirements? Serious challenges can arise, and it’s a widespread issue across the Australian Public Service. In early 2024 a government recordkeeping crisis was revealed by the Records and Information Management Practitioners Alliance (RIMPA Global). To help minimise this issue and avoid the pitfalls of poor recordkeeping, it’s critical to have a robust archiving system in place. 

As government ministers often handle long-term projects that continue beyond their tenure, archiving digital records helps preserve institutional knowledge that can be valuable for their successors. It helps ensure important decisions are documented and can be accessed when needed. 

Handling Freedom of Information (FOI) requests 

Notwithstanding the importance of compliance, especially for government authorities, adequate digital recordkeeping also demonstrates responsible communication practices and preserves institutional knowledge. This is essential for responding to FOI requests.  

If records are not archived, it can become challenging to respond to these requests accurately. Given the FOI Act stands to promote transparency of government communications and allow access to them, lack of recordkeeping can lead to public distrust and accusations of withholding information – two sentiments leading to a reputational crisis for government ministers and other authorities.  

Implementing a secure social media archiving solution can help prevent this.  

Realising ROI with a social media archiving solution  

Aside from governance benefits, archiving social media records can offer practical advantages and a tangible return on investment (ROI).  

Here are five reasons why ministers should implement a social media recordkeeping tool: 

  1. Record of achievement: archiving provides a detailed record of a minister’s achievements which is valuable for reflecting on their tenure.

  2. Easy access: archived records are easily searchable, allowing ministers and their staff to quickly retrieve information.

  3. Disaster recovery: in the event of data compromise or deletion, archived records provide a backup so that no critical information is lost.

  4. Historical documentation: it creates a comprehensive historical record of a minister’s term, which can be invaluable for future reference. 

  5. Protection and public trust: archived records are less susceptible to manipulation, providing a reliable source of information and demonstrating a commitment to transparency.  

Ultimately, the value derived from having correct recordkeeping in place is worth it. Brolly is a secure, effective social media archiving solution that provides all the above and more (sentiment analysis, data visualisation, Hootsuite integration and Open Text Content Manager (TRIM) integration). 

With numerous government clients across Australia and New Zealand, Brolly is the go-to social media recordkeeping solution. Keen to know more? Arrange a free, no-obligation trial of Brolly here. 

Digital recordkeeping is not just a bureaucratic necessity but a crucial practice for ensuring accountability and compliance. By learning from past examples, ministers can take proactive steps to implement digital archiving systems to protect them from the potential pitfalls of poor recordkeeping.