City of Nelson institutes new Internet policy
by Erin Dentmon
December 13, 2012 11:25 PM | 1757 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Nelson City Council voted last week to adopt a policy for social media use by the mayor and council members.

The city’s new policy discourages elected officials from communicating with each other via social media.

Media covered by the policy include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and others. The vote passed 4-1, with Council member Jackie Jarrett dissenting.

“The content and tenor of online conversations, discussions and information posts should model the same professional behavior displayed during council meetings and community meetings,” the policy states.

Before the council voted on the social media policy, Jarrett said the policy is a way to keep him from “telling people what I need to tell them.”

Council Member Edith Portillo said she thinks city business should be “kept city business” and shouldn’t be on social media sites. The policy does address what matters city officials should not discuss via social media.

Under the new policy, social media cannot be used as means of official city communication, such as for official public notices or discussions of legally or fiscally significant items that have not previously been released to the public.

“Upon the advice and recommendation of any elected official, and at the discretion of the Council, any official of the city may be publicly reprimanded or censured if not found to not be in compliance with this policy,” it reads.

The policy states that social media postings relating to city business are subject to state records retention laws and the Open Records Act, including communications between elected officials and members of the public.

“It needs to be understood that social media is public record. Social media’s not going away anytime soon,” Council Member Duane Cronic said. “It’s to let citizens know that when they respond, that’s subject to open records.”

Elected officials are also “strongly encouraged” to limit other users’ ability to post content, since comments regarding semi-judicial matters may violate the Appearance of Fairness Doctrine.

“Communication between elected officials via social media, as with telephone and email, may constitute a ‘meeting’ under the Open Public Meetings Act. For this reason, elected officials are strongly discouraged from ‘friending’ other officials,” it states.

Officials must display a use policy on any social media sites to which the public is allowed to comment. The usage statement informs users that content including support or opposition of political campaigns or ballot measures will be removed, as will solicitations of commerce, profanity, encouragement of illegal activity and other similar postings.

Any content removed in compliance with the usage policy must be retained.

The policy states that officials should not post information for the public on subscription-only sites, or should provide an alternate source that does not require a subscription for the information.

“Sites should use the most open settings possible to allow the public to view content without requiring membership or login,” it states.

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