Testimony about the Impact of Social Media on Open Government

14 May 2010 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Author(s): Peter Vogel

I was honored to be asked by the Texas Senate to testify how Social Media impacts Open Government at a hearing on May 11, 2010 and you are welcome to read my Statement concerning Charge #13 for the Senate Affairs Committee:

Study the Public Information (Open Records) Act and the Open Meetings Act to ensure that government continues to operate in a way that is open and transparent. The study should consider how advances in technology and the emergence of various forms of social media (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter) have affected communications by and within governmental bodies.

The questions from the Texas Senators were very interesting since the first question was whether governments should do anything to regulate Social Media at all or just let things happen. You can listen to the hearing on the Texas Senate website and the testimony and questions begin about Charge #13 at about 2 hours and 3 minutes into the hearing.

Social Media Activity by Texas Senate Affairs Committee

It seemed like a good exercise to see what the Committee members were doing with Social Media so I prepared this chart as part of my Statement:

Ironically enough the Committee Chair Senator Robert Duncan was unaware that he was on Twitter until his staff advised him during the hearing. This only proves that elected officials have to be active with Social Media because it’s part of deal today and also why 430 Members of Congress have YouTube pages. Social Media is the way the world communicates and elected officials are participants.

Should Blogs and Social Media be Public Meetings?

The Texas Senate hearing was very timely since it was on the heels of the April 7, 2010 White House Memo declaring that posting blogs and Social Media are public meetings. This Memo is interesting and perplexing in that few people who post on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc really think that everything about the public consequences. However when government employees post items on Social Media using government computers or during the workday they are not private citizens and there are consequences to what they say. Legislators in the US Congress and in the States need to be mindful about Social Media, however Social Media changes is not static nor can any laws to attempt to regulate Social Media.

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