Social Media Policy ADM-64
Section: Administrative Rules
Effective: September 28, 2020
Reference: ADM-07 Personnel Rules; ADM-08 Disciplinary Procedure
The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance to Fire District members to clarify the boundaries between appropriate and inappropriate use of social media by Fire District personnel and to provide guidelines on the management, administration, and oversight.
Social Media Policy ADM-64, provides guidelines on the management, administration, and oversight. This policy addresses social media in general terms as technology will outpace our ability to discover emerging technology and create policies governing its use. The inappropriate use of social media may lead to actual harm and disruption to the District in terms of the public’s perception of the organization and its mission to render services to them.
Engaging in social media and social networking activities is a form of speech. Nothing in these rules is intended to unlawfully restrict a member’s right to discuss as a private citizen, matters of public concern, nor engage in concerted activity with co-workers. However Fire District Members have an affirmative obligation to avoid being perceived as a spokesperson for the Fire District unless authorized by the Fire Chief.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media outlets and systems are available and used by many people, including Fire District personnel, and the Fire District itself. Social media provides a valuable means of assisting the District in meeting community education, community information, Fire prevention, and other related organizational and community objectives. This policy identifies possible uses that may be evaluated and used as deemed necessary by the Fire chief. The Fire District recognizes the role that social media tools may play in the personal lives of District personnel. The personal use of social media can affect Fire District personnel in their official capacity as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Firefighters. This policy provides guidance of a precautionary nature as well as restrictions and prohibitions on the use of social media by District personnel. The District endorses the secure use of social media to enhance communication and information exchange, streamline processes, and foster productivity with its employees.
Blog: A self-published diary or commentary on a particular topic that may allow visitors to post responses, reactions, or comments.
District Social Media. “District Social Media” refers to Social Media directly authorized and established by the District in accordance with the terms of this Policy as an official medium for District communications.
Harassment: is the systematic and/or continued unwelcome actions of one party or group intended to demean, threaten, intimidate, or alarm another party or group.
Hate speech: is speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes including race, ethnic origin, national origin, skin color, gender (including status as pregnant or nursing), religion, disability, age, or sexual orientation, indicating a level of intolerance or hostility that is incompatible with a commitment to serve all members of the community.
Post: Content an individual shares on a social media site or the act of publishing content on a site.
Profile: Information that a user provides about himself or herself on a social networking site.
Social Media: A category of Internet-based resources that enable the user to generate content and encourage other user participation. This includes, but is not limited to, social networking sites: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, blogs, and other sites (there are many social media sites and this is only a representative list.)
Social Networks: Platforms where users can create profiles, share information, and socialize with others using a range of technologies.
Speech: Expression or communication of thoughts or opinions in spoken words, in writing, by expressive conduct, symbolism, photographs, videotape, or any related forms of communication.
Spokesperson for the District: an employee/member who makes a statement: on behalf of the District; in his/her capacity as an employee or member of the District; or in such a way that it may reasonably be attributed to the District as opposed to making the statement as a private citizen.
A. Strategic Policy
1. Determine strategy for District Social Media
a. Each social media page shall include an introductory statement that clearly specifies the purpose and scope of the District’s presence on the website.
b. Social media page(s) shall link to or reference the Fire District’s official website.
c. Social media page(s) shall be designed for the target audience(s) such as the community, civic leadership, employees, or potential recruits.
a. All Fire District social media sites or pages shall be approved by the Fire chief and shall be administered by the Fire chief or his designee.
b. Social media pages shall clearly indicate they are maintained by the Fire District and shall have the District logo and contact information prominently displayed.
c. Social media content shall adhere to applicable laws, regulations, and policies, including all information technology and records management policies of the District.
d. Social media content is subject to open public records laws.
e. Relevant records retention schedules apply to social media content.
f. Content must be managed, stored, and retrieved to comply with open records and record retention laws.
g. Social media pages should state that the opinions expressed by visitors to the page(s) do not reflect the opinions of the District.
h. Social media pages shall clearly indicate that posted comments will be monitored and that the District reserves the right to remove obscenities, off-topic comments, and personal attacks.
i. Social media pages shall clearly indicate that any content posted or submitted for posting is subject to public disclosure.
j. District Purpose. District Social Media shall include an introductory statement that clearly specifies the purpose and scope of the District’s Social Media and shall be linked to the District’s official website substantially in the following form:
(a).San Juan County Fire Protection District No. 4 (www.lopezfire.com) is a municipal corporation of the State of Washington that protects life and property and provides fire protection and emergency medical services to its citizens. This site is intended to serve as a mechanism for communication between the public and the District on the listed topics related to the District’s purpose of providing fire protection services, emergency medical services and protecting life and property. The opinions expressed by visitors to this site do not reflect the opinions of the District. Any comments submitted to this site and any lists of users or links are public records subject to disclosure pursuant to RCW 42.56. Users recognize that there is no expectation of privacy in the use of the District’s Social Media and users are cautioned to never disclose private or confidential information on this site.
(b). Communications made on this site do not constitute official notice to the District or any District personnel. Public Record requests may not be made on this site and must be submitted directly to the District’s Public Record Officer consistent with the District’s Public Record Policy.
k. District Social Media Public Use Guidelines. District Social Media shall include a prominent statement of or link to the following Public Use Guidelines:
(1). Any individual accessing, using, posting or commenting on this site accepts without limitation or qualification, the District’s Social Media Policy including but not limited to these Public Use Guidelines. The District retains the right to modify its Policies without notice and any such modification shall be effective immediately. Users of District Social Media further recognize that such use is governed by the terms of service and privacy policies of the underlying social media service provider.
(2). Any individual accessing, using, posting or commenting on this site recognizes that Social Media use is not private and that the District is subject to the Washington State Public Records Act (chapter 42.56 RCW).
(3). The District’s Social Media constitutes a limited public forum. The District monitors this site on a regular basis and reserves the right to restrict or remove any content that is deemed in violation of the District’s social media policy, these Public Use Guidelines or any applicable law. Public posts, comments or links that contain any of the following forms of content shall not be allowed:
(i). Comments not topically related to the particular article/topic being commented upon;
(ii). Uses for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of a person to an office or for the promotion of or opposition to a ballot proposition. Such a use of District Social Media is specifically prohibited by this Policy and RCW 42.17A.555, subject to the exceptions stated therein.
(iii). Profane language or content;
(iv). Content that promotes, fosters, or perpetuates discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, gender, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, national origin, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation;
(v). Sexual content or links to sexual content;
(vi). Solicitations of commerce;
(vii). Conduct or encouragement of illegal activity;
(viii). Information that may tend to compromise the safety or security of the public or public systems; or
(ix). Content that violates a legal ownership interest of any other party.
(4). Any content removed based on these guidelines must be retained, including the time, date and identity of the poster when available.
B. District-Sanctioned Use:
The following rules apply to District personnel authorized by the Fire Chief or designee to act as a spokesperson for the District via District Social media outlets:
1. The use of District computers by District personnel to access District social media is permitted.
2. Personnel shall conduct themselves at all times as representatives of the District and shall adhere to all District standards of conduct and observe conventionally accepted protocols and proper decorum.
3. Personnel shall identify themselves as a member of the District.
4. Personnel shall not post, transmit, or otherwise disseminate confidential information, including photographs or videos, related to District training, responses, activities, or work-related assignments without express written permission for the Fire chief.
5. Personnel shall never post photos of EMS patients treated by the Fire District.
6. Personnel shall not conduct political activities or private business.
7. Personnel shall not use personally owned devices to manage the District’s social media activities or in the course of official duties.
8. Personnel shall observe and abide by all copyright, trademark, and service mark restrictions in posting materials to electronic media.
9. Personnel shall at all times comply with the District Social Media Public Use Guidelines
C. Potential Uses:
Social media is a valuable tool when providing information about:
1. road closures
2. special events
3. weather emergencies
4. updates on Fire District programs and activities
5. major ongoing events in the jurisdiction that affects the entire community
6. Employment Opportunities – Persons seeking employment and volunteer positions use the Internet to search for opportunities.
7. Background Checks – For authorized members to conduct a background check on potential employees or volunteers.
a. Candidates applying for employment must sign a release document enabling the District to conduct a background check using any resource including social media.
b. The District has an obligation to include Internet-based content when conducting background investigations of job candidates.
c. Searches should be conducted by Human Resources or with permission from the Fire chief and only for the purposes of providing possible background material on an employee candidate.
d. Information pertaining to protected class status shall be filtered out prior to sharing any information found online with decision makers.
e. Persons authorized to search Internet-based content shall be deemed as holding a sensitive position and shall keep and treat all information found as confidential.
f. Search methods shall not involve techniques that are a violation of existing law.
g. Vetting techniques using social media as one of many resources to provide valid and up to date information shall be applied uniformly to all candidates.
h. Every effort must be made to validate Internet-based information considered during the hiring process.
i. An Internet search shall not be the only mechanism used to provide background information on a possible candidate.
D. Personal Use, Precautions, and Prohibitions
District personnel shall adhere to the following when using social media.
1. District personnel are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media sites to the degree that their speech does not impair or impede the performance of their duties, impair discipline and harmony among coworkers, or negatively affect the public perception of the District. No member, while speaking as a private citizen on a matter of public concern, shall speak in such a way as to cause actual harm or disruption to the mission and functions of the District.
2. Members may speak on a matter of public concern as a spokesperson for the District only with permission through the chain of command.
3. As public employees, District personnel are cautioned that their speech either on or off-duty, and in the course of their official duties that has a connection to the employee’s professional duties and responsibilities, may not be protected speech under the First Amendment.
4. Speech that violates this policy may form the basis for discipline if deemed detrimental to the District.
5. District personnel shall assume that their speech and related activity on social media sites will reflect upon their position within the District and of the District.
6. District personnel shall not post, transmit, or otherwise disseminate any information to which they have access as a result of their employment without written permission from the Fire chief.
7. District personnel shall use good judgment, moral conduct, and adhere to the professional standards and code of conduct of the Fire District if they elect to do the following on personal social media pages or outlets:
a. Identify themselves as a member of the District and/or display District logos, uniforms, or similar identifying items on personal web pages.
b. Post personal photographs or provide similar means of personal recognition that may cause them to be identified as a Firefighter or EMT, Fire or EMS officer, employee, or member of the Fire District.
c. Understand that when using social media, anything they say or post becomes a permanent part of the World Wide Web.
d. Personnel who elect to identify themselves as a member of the Fire District shall post a disclaimer that they do not represent the Fire District in any official capacity.
8. Adherence to the District’s code of conduct is required in the personal use of social media.
a. When engaging in social media or social networking activities, all personnel will maintain a level of professionalism in both on-duty and off-duty conduct that is consistent with the honorable mission of our District.
b. Members shall not engage in speech that is false, deceptive, libelous, slanderous, misleading, obscene, sexually explicit, expresses bias against any race, any religion, or any protected class of individuals, or causes harm to others, including speech that constitutes hate speech, or harassment, nor shall members discuss protected or confidential matters of the Fire District, including:
1. Matters that are under investigation
2. Patient and employee information protected by HIPAA or medical confidentiality laws
3. Personnel matters that are protected from disclosure by law.
c. District personnel may not divulge information gained by reason of their position or authority; make any statements, speeches, appearances, and endorsements; or publish materials that could reasonably be considered to represent the views or positions of the Fire District without express written authorization from the Fire chief.
d. District personnel should be aware that they may be subject to civil litigation for publishing or posting false information that harms the reputation of another person, group, or organization otherwise known as defamation to include:
1. publishing or posting private facts and personal information about someone without their permission that has not been revealed previously to the public, is not of legitimate public concern, and would be offensive to a reasonable person;
2. using someone else’s name, likeness, or other personal attributes without that person’s permission for an exploitative purpose; or
3. publishing the creative work of another, trademarks, or certain confidential business information without the permission of the owner.
4. District personnel shall understand that privacy settings and social media sites are constantly changing, and shall never assume that personal information posted on such sites is protected.
5. District personnel shall expect that any information created, transmitted, downloaded, exchanged, or discussed in a public online forum may be accessed by the District at any time without prior notice.
6. On-duty members discussing incident and/or work related matters in social media may inadvertently trigger public records requirements under the Washington State Open Records Act.
7. Personnel must use personal email accounts for personal Social Media activities not District email accounts
8. Commissioners shall not communicate with each other regarding District business via Social Media.
1. Reporting violations
a. Any employee becoming aware of or having knowledge of a posting or of any website or webpage in violation of the provision of this policy shall notify his or her supervisor immediately for follow-up action.
2. Violation of this social media policy may result in disciplinary action up to, and including, termination in accord with ADM-08, Disciplinary Procedure.