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FCW : November 30, 2013
to preserve communications, tapping capabilities native to speci c social media platforms and adopting emerging third-party social media archiving tools. Why it matters The Federal Records Act casts a wide net for what con- stitutes a federal record. The act de nes a record as any material --- "regardless of physical form or characteristics" --- that an agency creates or receives in the course of con- ducting public business and that warrants preservation. A blog, tweet or other social media post may be deemed a federal record under that de nition. A recent bulletin from the National Archives and Records Administration underscores that point. "Content on social media is likely a federal record," NARA s Oct. 25 notice states. "Agencies must identify the of cial record and determine how it will be managed. Some social media records may be temporary, with a transitory, short- or long-term retention. Some may even be permanent, such as a blog by an agency senior of cial." The current focus on social media stems, in part, from the Managing Government Records Directive, which the Obama administration launched last year. The directive aims to create a records management framework that better monitors agency actions. It also calls for NARA to create a plan that outlines "suitable approaches for the automat- ed management of email, social media and other types of digital content." To that end, NARA released a request for information in September regarding automated electronic records manage- ment solutions. The RFI asks vendors to submit capabil- ity statements detailing solutions and services for moving agencies to electronic recordkeeping. "We are still in the process of reviewing the responses to our RFI," said Paul Wester Jr., chief records of cer at NARA. "We received several dozen responses from our stakeholder community." He said NARA intends to produce a preliminary plan by the end of the calendar year, in accordance with the Managing Government Records Directive. The fundamentals The initial job for agencies is determining which social media communications rise to the standard of a federal record. NARA s recent bulletin provides a list of questions to help agencies make the call on a given piece of social media content: • Does it contain evidence of an agency s policies, busi- ness or mission? • Is the information available only on the social media site? • Does the agency use the social media tool to convey of cial information? • Is there a business need for the information? A "yes" answer to any of those questions means that the content is likely a federal record, according to NARA. Ultimately, it is up to each agency to evaluate records and interpret the applicable laws and regulations. And they are taking a variety of approaches. Jason Townsend, NASA s deputy social media manager, said the agency s retention policy covers all records gener- ated by the agency and is based on the content and use of the individual record, regardless of format. However, he noted, not all social media posts are cre- ated equal. "Our NASA records of cials have determined that social media posts are typically either duplicative content that resides elsewhere in other of cial, non-social media records or consists of transitory-type content that lacks signi cant retention value," Townsend said. "The exceptions include social media content created by high-level or otherwise prominent of cials." Of cials at the Centers for Disease Control and Preven- tion are not distinguishing between types of social media posts at this point. "Right now what we are doing is just taking an approach to archiving everything that we have posted," said Carol Crawford, chief of the Digital Media Branch at CDC. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Of ce of Pub- lic and Intergovernmental Affairs "maintains an archive of posts we make but not comments or responses to those posts," said Megan Moloney, director of digital media engage- ment at VA. Once agencies settle on a social media policy, they can look into various archiving approaches. One method is to take screen shots of, say, Facebook or Twitter pages and pre- serve them. Some agencies also copy and paste social media posts to a Word document or other format for archiving. In addition, archiving tools are available via social media platforms and third-party vendors. Crawford said CDC uses Salesforce.com s Radian6 social media monitoring tool to archive its Twitter posts. For other platforms, CDC uses the copy-and-paste method. Although the process sounds arduous, Crawford said it doesn t take too much time to archive that way. Stapleton said HHS uses a range of tools and approaches to archive its social media content. "For instance, in addition to posting all comments on the blog on our Digital Strategy website, we are capturing them in a database that will be part of an eventual archive," he said. HHS has also launched a Web content archiving initiative November 30, 2013 FCW.COM 31
November 15, 2013