Federal agencies’ Facebook posts, YouTube videos, blog posts, and tweets… are all of these Federal records?
Increasingly, Federal agencies are using web 2.0 and social media tools to quickly and effectively communicate with the public. These applications, sites, and tools encourage public participation and increase our ability to be more open and transparent.
The informal tone of the content, however, should not be confused with insignificance. Agencies must comply with all records management laws, regulations, and policies when using web 2.0 and social media tools.
On October 20, 2010, the National Archives and Records Administration issued “Guidance on Managing Records in Web 2.0/Social Media Platforms” also known as NARA Bulletin 2011-02.
The bulletin says that the “principles for analyzing, scheduling, and managing records are based on content and are independent of the medium; where and how an agency creates, uses, or stores information does not affect how agencies identify Federal records.” The following questions are meant to help agencies determine record status:
- Is the information unique and not available anywhere else?
- Does it contain evidence of the agency’s policies, business, mission, etc.?
- Is this tool being used in relation to the agency’s work?
- Is use of the tool authorized by the agency?
- Is there a business need for the information?
If the answers to any of the questions are yes, then the content is likely to be a Federal record. While an agency may determine that content is non-record because it is duplicative and found elsewhere in an agency’s recordkeeping system, agencies should also consider the fact that social media platforms can offer better indexing, opportunity for public comment, and other collaboration.
Agencies cannot ignore their recordkeeping responsibilities because content appears in a system or platform that is not easily captured by their current recordkeeping practices. Recordkeeping practices must evolve faster to keep up with the changing electronic landscape.
At the first joint meeting of the CIO Council and the Federal Records Council two weeks ago, I spoke to the fact that agencies are still neglecting their recordkeeping responsibilities for email. In our 2009 Records Management Self-Assessment, we found that most Federal agencies do not manage their email records in an electronic recordkeeping system, and therefore cannot ensure that these emails are preserved in any recordkeeping system on a regular basis. Archaic “print and file” practices still exist in many agencies, resulting in the inadequate preservation of messages that meet the criteria for Federal records.
It needs to be easier for agencies to fulfill their recordkeeping requirements, but this requires ongoing collaboration between records management and information technology programs – so that systems are designed to integrate records management controls. Agencies’ records officers need to be involved in the design, development, and implementation of electronic information systems as well as web 2.0 and social media platforms. If recordkeeping is an afterthought, it might never be done.
On the east side of the National Archives Building, it says, “This building holds in trust the records of our national life and symbolizes our faith in the permanence of our national institutions.”
With the content of our national life found more and more in the electronic realm, how do you think the National Archives and Records Administration can better assist agencies in fulfilling their recordkeeping responsibilities?
For More Information:
- Records Express: The official blog of the National Records Management (NRMP) at the National Archives.
- NARA Bulletin 2011-02: Guidance on Managing Records in Web 2.0/Social Media Platforms
- “A Report on Federal Web 2.0 Use and Record Value” (NARA Report)
- “2009 Records Management Self-Assessment” (NARA Report)