East Devon District Council

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Policy Social Media Policy

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6. Appendix B - Guidance for officers

What to bear in mind to keep you protected online either at work or at home

When you engage online it is important to use your common sense.  The things that can get you into hot water anywhere else are just the  same things to avoid in social media. 

You are personally responsible for what you publish on social media.  It is important that you think before you publish as words can’t be unspoken.  Even if you delete a hastily fired off blog or tweet, it will probably already have been read and will be indexed or duplicated in places beyond your reach.

Remember that the lawss of defamation and harassment apply to social media in the same way as written or spoken communication and people can sue you personally for damages if they consider their reputation has been or may be harmed, or if your posts constitute harassment.

Familiarise yourself with the Councils Acceptable Behaviour Policy and be aware that use of social media (whether personal or corporate account use) to bully or harass customers or colleagues will not be tolerated.

Equally, in the same way we expect users of corporate accounts to retain evidence of negative and inappropriate content made by third parties, tose third parties are equally capable of retaining evidence of posts and responses made by or associated with Council officers, potentially for use in legal proceedings.

Use of Social Media at work

When using any Official Site in relation to your role at work, Authorised Users must:

  • Clearly identify yourself as a Council employee and either include your name or job title as appropriate where you have been authorised by your Strategic / Service Lead to act as a representative of the Council or to comment on behalf of the Council and are making comments on a social media site not specifically branded as belonging to the Council;
  • Make sure all content published is accurate, not misleading and complies with any relevant Council policy and is in keeping with your job role;
  • Comply with the terms and conditions of the social media site being used;
  • Be polite and treat other users of the social media site with respect;
  • Use the flowchart at the end of this guide to decide how and if to respond to customer comments, particularly negative ones;
  • Remember to keep key Members and other officers updated on your work and to flag inappropriate content to your Strategic/Service lead and the corporate Communications Team.

When using any Official Site, Authorised Users must not:

  • Make any comment or post any material that may cause damage to the Council’s reputation or bring it into disrepute.   This includes making negative or disparaging comments about the Council or its employees, and ensuring you do not agree with or affirm content posted by third parties which is inappropriate (derogatory/offensive etc. see final point below), particularly where the accuracy of comments stated as factual cannot be verified ;
  • Make any political comment; state any political preference or make any kind of partisan comment (e.g. show support/sympathy for) that may compromise the reputation of the Council or appear to put the Council in a conflict of interest;
  • Post, publish or respond to any material that is defamatory, offensive, obscene, harassing or bullying; racist, sexist or otherwise discriminatory; infringes copyright or any person’s right to privacy; constitutes contempt of court or is otherwise unlawful. 

Monitoring use of social media at work

Authorised Users should not spend more time using social media sites in the course of their employment than is necessary for the purposes of Council public communication.  Priority should be given to sites which are widely read by the general public and communicate information about services or service changes that relate to key Council proposals or affect significant numbers of residents.

They should ensure that the use of social media does not interfere with their other duties.  Authorised Users spending an unnecessary or  excessive amount of time using social media sites may be subject to  disciplinary action.

Open Access Editable “Wiki” Sites Such As Wikipedia

Most wiki sites record the IP address of the editing computer. Alterations to such wiki sites may appear as if they have come from the Council itself. Officers should not act in a manner that may bring the Council into disrepute and should not post derogatory or offensive comments on any online wiki sites.

Prior to altering any wiki site entry about the Council or any entry which might be deemed a conflict of interest, employees should read the  terms and conditions of the site concerned and, if necessary, ask permission from the relevant wiki editor. They should also seek advice      from the Communications Team.

Personal use of social media

Access to social media sites for personal use using the Council’s IT systems is not allowed.

Employees should be aware and recognise that there  is a risk of damage being caused to the Council through their personal use of social media when they can be identified as an employee of the Council.  This may be by direct identification (because a profile or content expressly states a Council association) or indirect identification (because friends, family or others know the user works for the Council).

If in respect of any personal use of social media an employee can be identified as associated with the Council by the profile or content then  the following guidance should be complied with:

You should:

  • Expressly state (through a disclaimer) on any profile or content that identifies you as an employee (or otherwise refers to or implies a relationship with the Council) that the stated views are your own personal views and are not those of the Council. You can use something like ‘the views I express here are mine alone and do not reflect the views of my employer’ or ‘all tweets personal’;
  • Ensure that readers are not misled into believing that any material published by you is on behalf of the Council, authorised by the Council or official Council policy if it is not;
  • Ensure all content that relates to the Council or Council business is accurate, fairly balanced, not misleading and complies with any relevant Council policy;
  • Comply with the terms and conditions of the social media site being used;
  • Be polite and treat other users of the social media site with respect;
  • Tell the Communications Team if you discover defamatory, confidential, obscene or otherwise unlawful material that you consider affects the Council or any of its employees.

In addition to the provisions outlined in point 3 of the main body of the Social Media Policy, you must not:

  • Publish content using an affiliation with the Council for the promotion of personal financial interests, personal commercial ventures or personal campaigns;
  • Publish content in an abusive manner or in a way that contravenes the Council’s Acceptable Behaviour Policy;
  • Publish content in a way which appears as if the Council has endorsed it;
  • Share sensitive or confidential information about the Council or its employees or councillors nor upload any photos or videos of colleagues without their express permission;
  • Use your Council email address or any Council logos or copyright material for personal use.

The Council’s Acceptable Behaviour Policy must be complied with at all times.