PINETOP-LAKESIDE — At the Oct. 17 council meeting Community Relations Manager Tony Alba offered a brief introduction on the issue of social media records and retention as it relates to town government and public records requests and open meeting law.
Alba introduced John Donnelly, an account executive with ArchiveSocial, who made a telephonic presentation on the subject.
ArchiveSocial is a company out of North Carolina who, according to Donnelly, represents “...over 50 municipalities, counties, and school districts in Arizona.” Donnelly said they also represent the towns of Taylor and Snowflake, Winslow, Phoenix and the US Department of Justice, to name a few.
Alba told the council, “As a public agency we are required to adhere to rules and regulations.” He mentioned that the town has multiple Facebook pages such as The Town of Pinetop-Lakeside, Visit Pinetop-Lakeside, Pinetop-Lakeside Police Department and other social media outlets. Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are also social media. Public record requests can include all of these and possibly used by employees, such as himself, when posting town information on their personal pages.
“Naturally we do not have the ability to archive and save (social media posts),” said Alba. “ArchiveSocial has affordable ways to do that.”
Donnelly explained that his goal to the council was to “highlight value of how (social media) uses ties to public records requirements.” Noting that the town has 8,000 followers on its Facebook page normally, Donnelly reminded them that the number doubles when the seasonal population arrives.
“By default,” said Donnelly, “(there) is no way to monitor social media. It is a one-way street.”
Donnelly said that key post comments and messages which may be requested could put the town at risk if they cannot produce them. Though the town may have the ability to control their own employees, they cannot control a third party action. Third party posts can be deleted or edited but are still the town’s responsibility to produce if requested.
Donnelly mentioned that Pima County, for example, handled their social media third party issue by blocking third party users and maintaining control of their employees.
He said that Facebook does not archive social media records, nor do they provide or hold on to information once it is removed.
Donnelly explained that if a request for a record is not there and not producible when requested, the town is out of compliance.
“Public records requests can contain broad language,” said Donnelly.
He went on to say that though public records requests and social media records vary from state to state, Arizona has guidelines from the Secretary of State and the Attorney General’s office. In Arizona social media data includes electronic devices. Donnelly clarified that Arizona requires that government agencies preserve public records regardless of physical form, including electronic records.
“Social media is not made for archiving,” said Donnelly. “ArchiveSocial is web-based and can be easily set up within five to ten minutes. It is cloud-based. Once logged in, the program has the ability to access and capture while recording, as a post happens.
“If you get a request for some records, your association has the ability to provide (them),” said Donnelly. “We cannot capture in real time, but can in almost five minutes.”
Whether the comments are edited, which could mean two, three or four records, ArchiveSocial can provide all of them, as well as monitoring Facebook Live which has been added to the social media menu.
As far as having assisted a client with a social media public records requests to date, Donnelly stated in an email to the Independent that they have assisted the Town of Gilbert.
The world of social media is ever changing today and even police departments and citizens post information that can actually lead to an arrest. That information can also be a records request.
Alba said the town does have a policy on social media but it does not touch on personal pages, only the town’s. ArchiveSocial is preparing a social media policy that the town is going to look at and likely incorporate.
Alba said there are two levels of coverage offered to the town by ArchiveSocial; the base level is $2,000 annually and the unlimited package is $4,000 annually. Alba said they have signed on for the basic package but can upgrade to the the more robust package if needed.
“The basic package has been prorated and will be $1,592,” said Alba. “It is a great investment to get us some legal protection.”