It could help cut down on misinformation, officials say.
A social media policy is being considered by the Frederick Board of Aldermen. The staff presented such a proposal during the Wednesday afternoon workshop. Michele Bowman, Neighborhood Advisory Council Coordinator, says it would help prevent misinformation from getting out from individuals who claim association with the City of Frederick. "What happens if somebody leaves or gets disgruntled, and put some inappropriate material on there that makes somebody looks bad, or personal attacks," she told the Aldermen. "It's truly up what you guys want that piece to be."
Public Information Coordinator Susan Harding says right now there are Facebook pages associated with the City of Frederick which are set up under a personal profile rather than a city profile. "It would be beneficial for the City of Frederick to have all Facebook pages associated with the City of Frederick, such as boards and commissions, ad hoc groups, neighborhood advisory councils, under the purview of the City of Frederick," she says. But some organizations, like the Golden Mile Alliance, would be exempt from this policy, if it's adopted.
The city currently has no social media policy, Harding says.
Alderwoman Kelly Russell supports such a policy. "We want to make sure that information is accurate, that is unbiased, that it is appropriate. We certainly don't want to stifle anybody's freedom of speech," she says. "Certainly, any personal person or any group of personal people that aren't representing the City of Frederick can say anything they want, within the guidelines of Facebook or Twitter."
But Alderman Michael O'Connor reminded his colleagues about how much of a fine line this issue can be, posting something inappropriate versus free speech. "How you make a distinction between what's just a robust conversation about a topic, and what is something that is information that the city ought to be in control of because the misinformation of city information can be detrimental for a whole variety of reasons," O'Connor says. But he does emphasize that the city should have control over its own information.
Another issue is who would monitor the Facebook pages associated with the city. "I'm just not sure how that's going to happen," says Alderwoman Carol Krimm.
"We don't have someone who has the time to sit and monitor Facebook pages and Twitter," Harding responded.
But Bowman said it's a necessary part of a social media policy. "Either Susan, or either myself for the NAC's, would have the ability, if there were some inappropriate comments--as we have seen and I've had to remove in the past--it would be just another check and balance," says Bowman. "Instead of having it under somebody's personal page, it would under the city's umbrella."
Alderwoman Russell said the monitoring may not be as extensive as some may think. "All that 'liking' and 'retweeting,' whatever, all of that goes on, that's not coming from us," Russell says. "So that's not something that I think we'd be responsible for monitoring. All we would be monitoring is those organizations that have been given the blessing by the City of Frederick to post. So I don't think it's as big as watching every tweet 24/7."
During the discussion, Alderwoman Shelley Aloi said any city social media policy should change with the times. "I would agree with the specific addressing of Facebook, Twitter, perhaps Pinternest, Google Plus, but still leaving it broad enough so that other types of social media could be included," Aloi says. Alderwoman Krimm said the policy should be updated on a periodic basis.
The staff is expected to bring back a revised social media policy at a future workshop.