Politicians across the world have embraced Twitter as a way to directly connect with the public.  It’s common for political offices to have an official account that is passed along to the next official. However, in recent years, we’re seeing a new trend: politicians issuing messages about official duties, but from an “unofficial” account. It might be a personal account that the official had before assuming office, or it might be an account that appeared outside official channels.

When law requires that official communications be captured by the public record, how does a country apply that law to an official actively using a personal, unofficial account? Under what circumstances must the account be monitored? How are the messages archived and made accessible? And how can government agencies be certain they’re compliant?

Australia has a clear policy: social media must be archived to the state record, and it’s in violation of the law to “dispose of state records” or “transfer their possession or ownership without approval.” In 2017 when Mike Baird resigned as Premier of New South Wales his Twitter account suddenly went offline. Which was a surprise because he had actively used the account for official business and it should have been a part of the public record per the State Records Act of 1998. In the U.S. the Supreme Court recently confirmed that American citizens cannot be blocked from viewing Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account because it is now a public forum which is a violation of the First Amendment. To be specific, the account can “mute” user on a per post basis but “blocking” a user in not permitted.

Government agencies and staff offices tasked with maintaining the digital record struggle to keep up, likely due to a lack of funding or because the task is monumental when done manually. The U.S. Library of Congress had initially planned to archive all Tweets but by the end of 2017 they announced a new, less ambitious plan to archive select Tweets. You might wonder, what’s Twitter doing to facilitate archiving and monitoring? The answer is not much, and even if they introduced a feature, you should not rely on it meeting your specific needs nor sticking around.

If you have a Twitter account or another social media account that needs to be archived and monitored, SafeGuard Cyber has a comprehensive, automated solution for you. Contact us for a demo to hear more about how we can address your needs with a fully customizable policy for archiving and retaining the right information.

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