Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Interim protocols for government online media participation released

Back on 8 December the APSC released Circular 2008/8: Interim protocols for online media participation.

I was waiting to hear about them officially before posting about them. However as I've not yet seen any coverage through these channels, I figured that it was time to post about them to raise some awareness for those of us in the egovernment space and for other public servants blogging.

The interim guidelines have been released in support of the current online consultation trials taking place in the Federal government, with the Department of Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy's Future Directions blog being one of these trials.

The guidelines cover both official and private use (such as this blog) of online communications and are broadly inline with similar guidelines in the US, UK and New Zealand.

In summary these are,
Official use of online communication
When using online communication for official purposes:
  • ensure that you are appropriately authorised to do so. Let people know who you are and what you want to achieve. You should disclose your position as a representative of your agency, unless there are exceptional circumstances such as a potential threat to personal security
  • be accurate and informative in explaining Government policies and programmes and be responsive to public views and comment. You should, however, avoid any statements that might be interpreted as advocating government policies or criticising the policies of other political parties or groups
  • be objective and impartial. Avoid any comment that could be interpreted as a personal political view
  • be honest, cordial and professional at all times
  • don’t commit your department or agency or the Government to any action or initiative unless you have authority to do so
  • don’t disclose official information unless you are authorised to do so or unless it is already in the public domain. Be aware of laws covering libel, defamation, privacy and the protection of intellectual property
  • avoid any statement or comment that might bring the APS into disrepute.
Private use of online communication
As a citizen, you are entitled to comment in a personal capacity on public issues, including through contributing to online discussion and debate. You should remember, however:
  • that Commonwealth resources must be used in a proper manner. You should not use work internet or email for private blogging or other forms of online comment;
  • that you should avoid any comment that might be interpreted as an official statement on behalf of your agency or that might compromise perceptions of your ability to do your job in an unbiased and professional manner. You should also be careful about posting comment or material that might bring the APS into disrepute.
Final guidelines are planned to be released in 2009.


  1. Sounds okay, but is there any enforcement provision?

  2. Hi Michael,

    I recommend you look at the APS Code of Conduct for some guidance on the types of enforcement actions.

    While enforcement is important, it would also be good to see more carrots to get Departments and public servants engaged online, rather than simply sticks.

    The UK and US government have done some effective things in these areas to create a desire to engage rather than simply providing reasons why not to (risks).