United States president Donald Trump was famously sued for blocking users on Twitter. A Judge ruled that the president could not legally block people from viewing his posts because they were official government communications. It is worth noting that President Trump uses his personal Twitter account to send Tweets, not the POTUS account that the United States government set up for the president to use. Many people were surprised that the ruling came down the way that it did. If you work at a government institution, especially if you use a government account, you might want to be aware that some of the freedoms that private citizens have regarding their social media usage do not apply to you.
In this article, we’ll go over some less high profile examples of how government agencies have found themselves in hot water for not following appropriate social media legislation.
Maine Governor Paul LePage
Like most politicians, Paul LePage, the governor of Maine, has a Facebook page. Also like most politicians, Paul LePage has detractors. Unlike most though, LePage decided to deal with his criticism by deleting negative posts made to his Facebook page. The state’s ACLU chapter got involved on behalf of the citizens and argued that deleting posts from the Facebook page of a government official was censorship.
Recently a judge denied LePage’s request to dismiss the case, potentially impacting future social media legislation. LePage had argued that his Facebook page was a personal page designed for supporters to use and not an official government account. It remains to be seen whether the laws in Maine will rule similarly to the federal laws that President Trump must abide by, but it is clear that government officials who aren’t careful about how they treat their social media accounts could be in for prolonged legal battles.
Coming to Australia?
Now that we see this is a prominent issue around the world, let’s delve in a bit deeper and see how this is affecting us a bit closer to home.
Sure, there are some inherent differences between the first amendment in the US that protects the freedom of speech, and the laws we have in place in Australia.
That does not mean that Australia is not free from social media commenters who get angry when their posts are deleted either. Media and Marketing experts at Mumbrella have warned brands not to delete social media posts because the backlash is often fierce.
Pearl jeweller Paspaley found themselves in a social media firestorm after ABC reported on the death of one of their divers. As an angry Australian public flooded their Facebook page with negative comments, the company’s social media manager started to delete some of them. This only fuelled the fire and made social media users even more angry at the company.
Paspaley isn’t alone. As a Mumbrella article points out, Westpac found themselves in the news for all the wrong reasons after they deleted comments from customers angry about a mortgage rate hike. Coffee franchise Gloria Jeans faced criticism on social media when the news broke that they financially supported groups opposed to same-sex marriage. They made things worse for themselves by deleting the posts.
The reality is that it doesn’t matter what country you are in, people do not like to feel as though their voices are not being heard. Government officials, more so than any other entity, work for the people. They must answer to the people. And as social media usage continues to grow, and continues to be a way for the people to express their concerns to government, we must consider that what is happening in America will very likely find its way to Australian shores. Proper social media management is more important than ever as technology use increases and tech-savvy constituents demand ever increasing transparency.
Many government departments around Australia have already seen the writing on the wall. Deleting posts can cause the owner of any social media page to make the news for all the wrong reasons, but it is increasingly likely that government agencies face even harsher penalties in the form of lengthy court cases. What if your government agency ends up in deep water because of a deleted post. Or if you were directed to repost a deleted comment, would you be able to? Your social media manager may not have kept a copy of the post in a neatly organised text file before hitting the delete button. And even if they did keep the basic text of the post, what about all the other rich data that was deleted, the images, the video, the metadata? Don’t worry though there are platforms that allow social media archiving for government authorities.
With Brolly, you no longer have to worry about it. If you need to bring back a post for any reason, whether it be an angry constituent, or just for the purposes of transparency, Brolly’s social media archiving tool is there for you. We built Brolly specifically with government compliance in mind so you can have the peace of mind to operate your social media page without worrying about social media legislation.
You do not want to be the next Governor Paul LePage. Keeping your organisation out of the news and out of the courtroom can be as easy as signing up for Brolly’s free 30-day trial. If you don’t know whether Brolly is right for your needs, then please do not hesitate to contact us today. We will be more than happy to answer any questions you have about the process and about how Brolly can help you with your social media archiving.