Frequently Asked Questions about California's Social Media Policy

March 1, 2010

Last week, the State Chief Information Officer announced new policy on the use of social media tools for the Executive Branch.  Information Technology Policy Letter 10-02 can be found online on the CIO’s website.  It is accompanied by a Social Media Standard.

Below are some questions and answers:

Q:   Does the policy ban social media sites for state agencies?

A:  No, the policy encourages departments to consider using these powerful tools.   It requires that department executives decide whether or not to use the tools, and what risks to consider if they move forward.   In the past, decisions of whether or not to use the tools have been made at various levels in the department.    The policy is the Executive Branch’s official position on the use of these tools, which many agencies are already using with great success.

Q:    Does the new social media policy require that state agencies must use social networking sites?

A:   No.   Again, the policy acknowledges that these are powerful tools for agencies to communicate with the public.   There are many examples of agencies using official department social media sites to reach their constituencies to bolster communication and transparency.     These sites are generally operated by the public affairs or business office within the specific department. 

Q:  Isn’t the policy a step toward shutting down access for state employees who want to use Facebook, YouTube and Twitter at work?   

A:  No.  In fact, many state employees currently don’t have access to such sites.   The policy is intended as a guide for state agencies to use as they utilize the tools to interface with the public.   Access for state employees on state equipment during work hours is an issue that naturally arises from the popularity of social media sites.    It is up the department’s executive management to determine what staff should have access to social media sites, especially if the department is using sites to communicate with the public.

Q:   The Governor uses Twitter in all sorts of ways, why can’t state employees use Twitter and Facebook however they want?

A:   It’s up to individual departments to determine whether or not to allow state employees access to social media sites while at work.   Obviously, on their own time and equipment, state employees are free to participate like any other member of the public.   State agencies must be responsible for their staff’s activities, including considering things like security, productivity, etc.   Security and the misuse of state resources are serious issues.

Q:  Are there only certain social media sites that state agencies are allowed to use?

A:  No, the policy is neutral on what sites to use.  Due diligence is required to ensure security and appropriate use regardless of the site.   Different sites may offer various security challenges which is why the Social Media Standard was developed to accompany the policy.     Ultimately, it is up the agency to consider the risks and decide what is right for them.