Friday, March 27, 2009

US government opens social media flood gates - legal deal signed to use sites

The US government might have become one of the most active public administrations using blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other online 'social' mediums, but until now there have been legal issues over how and whether Federal agencies could legally use these tools.

However, after nine months of negotiations and discussion, the GSA has now signed an agreement with four video-sharing and social networking sites permitting their use by Federal authorities. Agreements with another two sites are in progress, and I am sure more will come.

Seventeen Federal Agencies have already signed, or are in the process of signing up via GSA's template, opening the floodgates to a significant leap in US government use of online channels.

Reported in Nextgov, GSA signs deals for agencies to use social networking sites, these agreements are a watershed for US public sector internet use.

The four sites with agreements, structured as Memorandums of Understanding, are Flickr, Vimeo, and YouTube. GSA is negotiating with Facebook and MySpace.

Federal agencies are also beginning to create new roles to meet the President's new transparency directive and integrate use of online communications and engagement channels within their mix,
Most agencies will appoint directors of new media to determine how they can use social networking tools to meet mission goals and comply with President Obama's open government directive, said Sheila Campbell, team leader of Web best practices for the government portal and co-chair of the Federal Web Managers Council.

The directive will instruct agencies to make their operations more transparent and to create a process that asks the public to submit opinions on policy issues and enable collaboration with organizations in the public and private sectors.

"Agencies that already have a business case to use these tools will have the legal footing to do so," Campbell said. Tools should be used strategically, she added, "not just for the sake of using them, but to accomplish agency missions."

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