ERS Workshop, October 30, 2012

Both Sides of the Coin – How today’s social media can advance your career without it costing your job

Note: I am not an attorney. If you need legal advice, seek the advice of a professional. I recommend Cheryl McGirr.


ERS Facebook Page:


Did you know what you say on your personal Facebook profile could cost you your job, and possible future employment as well?  What about your LinkedIn Connections? Twitter? YouTube? Where you check in on FourSquare?  In the hyper-connected world of the 21st century, we find ourselves linked to coworkers, employees and employers through a vast and complicated network of very public websites and mobile applications.

This short course will explore issues regarding the overall design, implementation and philosophy around how government employees use the most popular social networks to stay in touch with friends and colleagues. They will learn to do this while building their personal brand in a way that conforms to their current employers’ views of, “What is appropriate?”

We’ll also look at the responsibility and accountability held by each individual employee in how they conduct themselves in public forums, whether off or online.  We will discuss numerous resources, as well as address concerns ERS has regarding the appropriate use of social networking sites by employees. In the end, the staff of ERS will be empowered with the knowledge to roam freely among the interactive web without fear.


The two sides of the coin:

  1. ERS’s Online Social Presence
  2. The Employees Online Social Responsibility


The goal of this class:

From the Director of ERS – “…[the employees of ERS] should leave knowing their obligations as an employee of ERS on their personal social media activities. For instance, they cannot disclose HIPAA information, or any other confidentiality statutes that apply to ERS.”


Questions to Consider:

  • How long will the information be kept?
  • Is it subject to the Public Information Act?
  • What will current or future employers think?
  • Who will be able to view what I post?
  • Am I discussing official ERS business?
  • Does this reveal embarrassing (too much) information about me?

The ERS Social Media Policy:


Public Information Act (PIA)

What is the PIA?

Open Records: The basic premise of the Texas Public Information Act (PIA) is that all government information should be available to the public.

Open Meetings: Under the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA), every meeting of a governmental body is considered open to the public. The TOMA definition of “meeting” is sufficiently broad to include Internet exchanges that create virtual meetings.


How long are the social media records maintained?

Facebook External Policy:


Freedom of speech and the First Amendment:

Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by many state constitutions and state and federal laws. The freedom is not absolute; including…

  • The Miller test for obscenity
  • Child pornography
  • Speech that incites imminent lawless action
  • Regulation of commercial speech such as advertising
  • Rights for authors and inventors over their works and discoveries (copyright and patent – Consider what you say. What if it’s someone’s trademarked IP?)
  • Protection from imminent or potential violence against particular persons (restrictions on fighting words)
  • The use of untruths to harm others (slander)

Distinctions are often made between speech and other acts which may have symbolic significance. Know the facts before you end up on the wrong side of a “Freedom of Speech” argument.


What does all this mean?  “Think before you tweet!”

Know there will be consequences if you make a mistake. If you make an honest mistake, fess up early and you’ll probably be okay. Try to cover it up or act out of malice and you’ll probably open yourself up to litigation.

Let’s talk about the reality of the online social landscape…


Types of Social Networking/Media:

Government uses sites to share information

@Caltrain video:


7 Reasons Every Government Agency Needs a Social Media Policy (By Mark Malseed and Andrew Einhorn):

  • Reason 1: Social Media Poses Risks to Agency Operational Security “Loose Tweets Sink Fleets”
  • Reason 2: Like It Or Not, Social Media Accounts Are The Voice of Your Agency “Was that in the Times? … No, I read it on Facebook”
  • Reason 3: Anyone Can Use (and Abuse) Social Media “We are ALL communicators now”
  • Reason 4: Mistakes, When They Happen, Will Go Viral “The cover-up is always worse than the crime”
  • Reason 5: Social Media Has Life-and-Death Consequences “When disaster strikes, people turn to Twitter”
  • Reason 6: For Public Employees on Social Media, There Is No ‘Private’ “What happens in Vegas … winds up on Politico”
  • Reason 7: Social media is your best defense against rumors & myths “In war and online, truth is the first casualty”


Legal Issues


Military Examples of Business Situational Awareness

Tips to protect yourself when networking online

11 tips for social networking safety:

3 Ways to Protect Yourself on Social Networking Sites:

How to Protect Yourself on Social Networking SitesRead more:


Questions? Email me at:

The UT Professional Development Center (PDC) helps individuals meet professional and personal goals and helps organizations develop employees and improve performance through its program, consulting, coaching and facilitation services.  Learn more at:

Attorney, Shawn Tuma, made a presentation to Social Media Breakfast Dallas titled Social Media Law: It is Real and, Yes, It Can Impact Your Business. The presentation was about social media law and how it relates to businesses using social media.

The presentation was professionally videoed by Jason (@jcroftmagic) and the great people at Magic Production Group (@magicprogroup). As always, please feel free to contact Shawn if you would like to discuss these issues any further! Shawn Tuma: @shawnetuma / / 214.726.2808.