NARA issues guidance for identifying official records on social media

Federal agencies must preserve Facebook, Twitter records that meet criteria, archivist says

Federal agencies have new responsibilities with retaining official records delivered on Web 2.0 and social media platforms even as they are behind on recordkeeping for e-mail messages, according to the director of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Federal records managers must ensure that they identify any federal records that appear on their Facebook, Twitter, wiki and blog sites and to preserve that content, David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, wrote on his blog on Nov. 2. He reminded federal agencies that official records may be found anywhere on a social network or Web 2.0 platform.

“The informal tone of the content…should not be confused with insignificance,” Ferriero wrote. “Agencies must comply with all records management laws, regulations, and policies when using Web 2.0 and social media tools.”


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NARA released a bulletin Oct. 20 offering “Guidance on Managing Records in Web 2.0/Social Media Platforms” to help managers identify official content on social media websites. That is the second time in recent weeks that the records management agency has dealt with social media; it issued a report on social media records management in September.

The most recent NARA bulletin offers these questions to help agencies determine record status:

  • Is the information unique and not available anywhere else?
  • Does it have evidence of the agency’s policies, business and mission?
  • Is this tool being used in relation to the agency’s work?
  • Is using the tool authorized by the agency?
  • Is there a business need for the information?

If the answer to any of the questions is “yes,” then the content is likely to be an official federal record, according to the NARA bulletin.

Agencies are expected to use the NARA guidance to determine the “most appropriate ways to incorporate recordkeeping requirements into their business processes” to meet the requirements of the Federal Records Act, the bulletin states.

Meanwhile, although e-mail systems have been in use for more than 15 years, most federal agencies do not manage their e-mail records in a recordkeeping system on a regular basis, Ferriero added.

“Agencies are still neglecting their recordkeeping responsibilities for e-mail,” Ferriero wrote.

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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