Agencies told to avoid links to political sites

Office of Special Counsel issues Hatch Act guidance for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

Federal agencies on Facebook or Twitter may not post Web links to political candidates’ Web sites or to online newspaper articles on the political activities of any federal executives, according to new guidance issued by the Office of Special Counsel.

The special counsel recently published a nine-page document of “Frequently Asked Questions” about federal employees’ and agencies’ use of social media. The rules cover restrictions on political activity under the Hatch Act and apply to use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites.

The guidelines declare that federal agencies on Facebook and other social media sites are not allowed to publish a link to a Web site of a political party, candidate for political office or political group.


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The agencies also are prohibited from linking to the president’s re-election campaign Web site, which is considered a political Web site, the office of special counsel wrote.

“The agency’s Facebook page should only be used to share information about the agency’s official business and must remain politically neutral,” the guidance states. Agencies are allowed to publish news about the president acting in his official capacity as the chief executive, but they may not display news items concerns his candidacy for re-election.

If a federal official or executive speaks at a political fundraiser, federal agencies are prohibited from publishing news items about the event.

The FAQ list also includes detailed guidance for federal employees and how to comply with the Hatch Act while using Facebook, Twitter and social networking sites.

The White House recently came under fire from Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California, who accused the administration of publishing political “propaganda” on federal sites.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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