Govt issues social media usage norms for its agencies

NEW DELHI: The central government on Thursday notified the social media usage guidelines for its agencies and citizen engagement for e-governance projects.

The guidelines have been developed for all e-Governance projects currently under National e-Governance Plan, whether being implemented at Central or State level. In addition, it will be applicable to all new e-Governance Projects being developed by any department or line ministry of central government.

The motive of these frameworks and guidelines is to enable various agencies to create and implement their own strategy for the use of social media, the government said.

According to the guidelines, persons handling the social media channels must take care "to avoid propagation of unverified facts and frivolous misleading rumours."

They should not "comment and respond unless authorised to do so especially in the matters that are sub-judice, draft legislations or relating to other individuals."

"When any information is shared or guidance given online, it is necessary to ensure that all relevant records are captured, trail is generated and records are managed appropriately," the guidelines stated.

The guidelines says that the official pages of departments "must reflect the official position, some measure of control must be included in the flexible design of communication."

"Just as rules and regulations exist for interaction with traditional media, similar rules must be created for engaging with social media," it said.

To avoid a possible conflict, the guidelines states, "it is important to define whether the engagement may be undertaken through official accounts only or the officials may be permitted to use personal accounts also for posting official responses."

"It determines who says what on behalf of your organisation and in what form it is published. It also outlines how each piece of published information is presented where it is published. The most important aspect is whether the responses are in Official or Personal Capacity. Also, it must be defined whether the responses can be posted through the official and/or persona accounts," it stated.

To overcome language barrier, the guidelines suggest that "care must be taken so that people can communicate in their own language, and due cognizance of the views expressed in local languages is taken."

While creating a policy for responses the guidelines state that "not all posts/comments need to be responded to immediately and individually. Also, wherever a response is required all posts should be kept short and to the point."

"While employees are free to post response in their personal capacity, it is mandatory that while they are doing so, they must clearly identify themselves, confidential information must not be divulged and should not be seen to represent "official view" unless authorised to do so."

The government has attached some key caveats to the guidelines like all accounts must be created and operated in official capacity; agencies must also have dedicated team that can monitor and respond to queries on a 24-7 basis; there should be congruence between responses on social media and traditional media; and relevant provisions of IT Act 2000 and RTI Act must be adhered to.

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