This guidance sets out the steps agencies should take to use social media responsibly and in line with their roles and functions.
Agencies in the Public Service need to keep the public informed about government policy and other relevant issues of the day. They also need to engage with the public, and to listen and be responsive to their views and needs. Social media can be an effective tool for achieving these goals. It can help agencies to communicate with New Zealanders directly, to hear about what is important to them and to promote discussion and seek their input on policy issues.
Social media has a broad reach and can be highly interactive. Using social media responsibly will help to maintain the public’s engagement with and trust in the Public Service.
Social media policy
Agencies must develop a social media policy that sets out how they will use social media. This policy should clearly outline for the agency’s staff:
- core responsibilities under the Standards of Integrity and Conduct and Political Neutrality Guidance that underpin how they should use social media in an official capacity
- the importance of respecting and protecting people’s personal information on social media, in line with obligations in the Privacy Act 1993
- other relevant legislation and policies that underpin how they should use social media in an official capacity.
Agencies must have processes in place to determine who is authorised to use social media in an official capacity. They should also have processes in place for how they will manage any concerns from members of the public about their social media use. These processes should be clearly set out in each agency’s social media policy.
Social media transparency statement
Agencies must publish a transparency statement about their approach to using social media somewhere that is easily accessible for members of the public (eg on an agency’s websites and/or official social media channels). This statement should clearly outline:
- how the agency intends to use social media and for what purposes
- how the agency will moderate comments by other people, and considerations it will use when deleting comments
- how the agency will manage and respond to any private or direct messages on social media
- how members of public can raise any concerns about the agency’s social media use
- that by following or ‘liking’ content from a particular person or organisation, the agency is not necessarily endorsing their views.
Regular social media review
Agencies must periodically review their social media policy and transparency statement (eg every 12 months) to assess whether they are current and fit for purpose and update them if necessary.
Agencies should also frequently review their social media presence (including the other social media accounts they are following) to ensure it is current and consistent with their social media policy and with this guidance.
The following sections provide guidance on the standards agencies should meet when:
- posting or sharing content
- following and interacting with other social media accounts
- responding to, moderating and deleting comments made by others.
Posting or sharing content
Generally, agencies should only post or share content on social media where there is a clear business purpose for doing so that is linked to their role and functions. Any content agencies share on social media must be:
- Impartial and politically neutral – this means it should be unlikely to be seen as being biased towards or as advocating for a particular political party. Careful consideration should also be given to any association with individuals, businesses and organisations.
- Factual and accurate – this means reasonable steps have been taken to ensure its accuracy. In particular, if an agency is providing information about government policy, this should be factual rather than based on opinion. While public servants may publicly explain government policy, justifying or endorsing it is the role of the Minister.
Agencies must ensure they respect and protect people’s personal information. If they are sharing any information or content on social media that relates to an identifiable individual (whether they are a member of public or a public servant), that person must have given consent for the information to be shared. The agency must have considered the privacy implications of any information being shared in line with obligations in the Privacy Act 1993.
If an agency is sharing content that could be considered to be advertising, this must be consistent with the .
Following and interacting with other social media accounts
Agencies must be considerate of how their interactions with other social media accounts could be perceived. Following another social media account, ‘liking’ or reposting content from another account, or linking to content from another source online is very likely to be perceived as an endorsement. Generally, agencies should only carry out any of these activities where there is a clear business purpose for doing so that is linked to their role and functions.
Agencies may wish to follow a broad range of accounts in order to manage any perceptions of being biased towards or as advocating a particular political party. Agencies should not follow the social media accounts of individuals or organisations that are known to produce content that is offensive or questionable.
Agencies should be judicious about ‘liking’ or reposting content that has been shared by other accounts. They must carefully consider whether the benefits of doing so outweigh any potential perception risks.
Responding to, moderating and deleting comments made by others
Agencies have a responsibility to manage their own social media platforms and ensure these are impartial, politically neutral and safe and accessible for people to use. Replying to comments made by members of the public can be an effective way to engage directly with them, provide them with relevant information or resolve service delivery issues. However, agencies do not have to reply to all comments on their social media platforms.
Agencies have the right to moderate comments on their social media platforms and delete them if they are offensive, irrelevant, share an individual’s personal information or could negatively impact perceptions of the agency’s political neutrality. An agency’s public social media transparency statement should clearly set out the considerations it will use when moderating and deleting comments on its social media platforms.
Note that responding to private or direct messages on a social media platform in an official capacity should be subject to the same considerations as any other official communication. An agency’s public social media transparency statement should clearly set out how it will manage and respond to any private or direct messages.
 For example, this includes informing people about changes to government policies or services, or about their rights and responsibilities.
 Decisions to pay for advertising on social media should be explicitly and carefully considered and made only where there is a clear business purpose.