Civil Service propriety guidance for social media – GCN


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The Government Communications network has released guidance on propriety in using social media in government:

When using official social media accounts such as Twitter, government communicators may use more informal language than for other channels. However, government communicators must remember that they are representing their department in this context and must apply the same high standards of accuracy as for all other official communications.
The character limitations and informality of much social media can pose new challenges for government communicators. For example, robust responses to media stories are part and parcel of press office work, but just as email can appear more aggressive than speech, press lines which may be acceptable in a conventional news piece may appear terse or even frivolous on Twitter. With this in mind, government communicators should observe the following checklist when running a departmental or policy account:
• Political – for original messages and re tweets check that there is nothing political within the body of the message, contained within links or in comments below a story. Official accounts must not be used for the further dissemination of
messages from party political or otherwise partisan accounts
• Partisan – it is of course acceptable for a minister to hold strong opinions. However, the department does not hold partisan opinions as an organisation. In carrying out their duties, government communicators are able to represent the
views and opinions of ministers only as they relate to HM Government and department issues
• Parliament – at all times government communicators must respect the primacy of parliament
• Polemical – be sensitive to tone and guard against perceived attacks on particular interests, organisations or individuals
• Understanding – Don’t act on auto pilot, ensure that you have read and fully understand messages before re tweeting
• Commercial – we do not provide links from government web estate to commercial websites nor should we disseminate commercial links and messages through government social media channels
• Confidential – at all times respect confidentiality, financial, legal and personal information. Do not discuss policy that has yet to be announced. Do not discuss ministerial movements
• Personal – Do not disclose personal information about minsters or about yourself. An informal tone of voice is often desirable within agreed boundaries, remember when using official accounts you are the voice of the department. Do
not make personal comments about tweeters. Never respond to someone being abusive about you, the department or ministers
• Isolation – tweets always need to have links and context. Media rebuttals should link to or at least cite the story you’re responding to or it will make no sense read in isolation

for more examples and tips