Social Media Policy for departmental staff

This policy applies to all Department of Human Services’ staff and contractors and outlines their responsibilities when using social media.

About this policy

By joining the Australian Public Service (APS) and carrying out duties on behalf of the Government and the community, you occupy a position of trust and responsibility.

As an APS employee in the department, you have agreed to comply with:

  • the APS Values
  • the APS Code of Conduct (the Code), and
  • all relevant departmental policies that apply to you, including this Social Media Policy

In relation to your use of social media, you may have obligations to the department that arise:

  • outside of working hours, or
  • when you are acting in an official and unofficial capacity, and
  • even when posting material anonymously, or using an ‘alias’ or pseudonym

This policy was developed so you feel empowered to participate online, while being mindful of your responsibilities and obligations under the APS Values, the Code and our policies.

What is social media

Social media consists of websites and applications that allow users to create and share content and to participate in social networking. Social media may include, but is not limited to:

  • social networking sites, including Yammer, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+
  • video and photo sharing websites, for example Snapchat, Flickr, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest
  • corporate networking tools, such as SharePoint or Enterprise Jungle
  • media sites hosting articles with comments, for example newshub
  • micro-blogging sites, for example Twitter and Tumblr
  • forums and discussion groups, such as speechbubble, Google groups or Whirlpool
  • wikis, for example Wikipedia
  • podcasting sites, for example SoundCloud
  • online gaming platforms, for example World of Warcraft or Second Life
  • geo-spatial tagging, such as Foursquare and Facebook check-in

As you can see from these examples, social media is diverse. It has become a part of how we live our lives today, and is a valuable tool for the public sector.

Where the term “post” is used in this policy it refers to any shared or created content you put on social media (for example, a post on Facebook or content you create and edit on Wikipedia).

How we use social media

We add value to customer communication with our active social media presence. With 14 social media accounts and close to 200,000 followers, we are building more meaningful relationships with customers, communities and other relevant stakeholders.

It is important to note that only authorised staff can respond to customers on behalf of the department on social media.

Similarly, we have procedures for authorising the creation of social media accounts to carry out department work. If you are thinking of creating social media accounts to carry out department work, you should get in touch with the Digital Media section first to obtain information about that process.

The Brand Management Framework sets out when the department’s branding, such as logos, can be used.

Using social media tools at work

Employees are increasingly able to share ideas and information through various internal social media platforms and networking tools run by us for the purposes of work collaboration, such as newshub, Yammer, speechbubble and SharePoint.

Each of these platforms has its own set of guidelines you can find on each site. While healthy debate is encouraged on these sites, you must follow each site’s guidelines. They are in place to ensure that the relevant site remains an open and welcoming place for everyone.

When accessing internal social media networks, you must do so in accordance with our ‘Conduct and Behaviour Policy’ and ‘Proper use of ICT Facilities Standard’, which are available on the Intranet. Among other things, these policies require you to use our ICT facilities in an acceptable manner that does not interfere with the performance of your work.

In addition to any applicable requirements set out in the ‘Conduct and Behaviour Policy’ and ‘Proper use of ICT Facilities Standard’, when participating in a social media platform or networking tool at work, you must observe the following:

  • you must be polite and respectful of the opinions of others at all times
  • you may post fun or personal-interest messages on Yammer and we encourage you to contribute to discussions, however, your use of Yammer must not interfere with the performance of your duties
  • you should be mindful that posts may be read by people from a variety of backgrounds who may not share your sense of humour
  • you must not use the department's internet, intranet, mobile devices or other computer resources to provide comments to journalists, politicians or lobby groups other than in the course of your official duties
  • you must not access or post or share any material that is fraudulent, threatening, bullying, embarrassing, of a sexual nature, profane (whether obfuscated by symbols or not), obscene, racist, sexist, defamatory or otherwise inappropriate or unlawful
  • you should not use our ICT resources to conduct romantic relationships whether consensual or not
  • you must not infringe another person's intellectual property rights, including the department's intellectual property rights

Personal use of social media

We support employees who choose to use social media in their capacity as private citizens, without intrusion. While acting as private citizens, APS employees enjoy most of the same rights to participate in the political life of the community as other citizens. That is, you need to be mindful that your online behaviour must be lawful, and you may still be bound by the APS Values, the Code and our policies. Below, this policy outlines a number of your key obligations in relation to your personal use of social media.

When using social media, you must:

  • uphold the APS Values, APS Employment Principles and APS Code of Conduct, which includes, at all times, behaving in a way that upholds the integrity and good reputation of the department and the APS more generally
  • be aware of your association with the department as your posts not only reflect on you, but can reflect on the department, particularly if you identify as one of its staff
  • remember that where you are identified, or could reasonably be identified as an employee of the department, be polite and respectful of the opinions of others at all times, and you must not disparage the department's employees, customers and other stakeholders
  • be conscious that social media is a public forum that provides little opportunity for people to defend themselves against personal attacks and therefore, criticisms can be highly prejudicial
  • be mindful that if you comment on the department, ensure that the information you provide is informed and factually accurate
  • abide by the requirements set out in Regulation 2.1 of the Public Service Regulations 1999 concerning the disclosure of information
  • not use social media to publicly complain about your employment, as the appropriate process for resolving such complaints are through discussions with your manager, or via the department’s internal dispute or complaints resolution mechanisms
  • make it clear that you are expressing your own personal views so that your comments are not perceived to be made on behalf of the department or the Government

When using social media, it is not acceptable at any time to:

  • post comments or images that are obscene, defamatory, threatening, harassing or discriminatory in relation to your work, a staff member or the APS
  • use a work email address to register personal social media accounts
  • use social media for business-related internal communications
  • post comments or images that are so harsh or extreme in their criticism of the department, Government, a Member of Parliament from another political party, or their respective policies that they could be perceived to have an impact on your ability to work professionally, efficiently, impartially or apolitically in the APS
  • post comments or images that are, or could be perceived to be, so strong in their criticism of the department’s administration, policies or programmes that it could seriously disrupt the workplace or compromise your ability to fulfil your duties as an APS employee in an impartial and unbiased manner — you are encouraged instead to resolve concerns in discussions with your manager or via the department’s internal dispute or complaints resolution mechanisms
  • post comments or images that are, or could be perceived to be unreasonable criticisms of the department’s customers or other stakeholders
  • disclose confidential customer information or internal policies, procedures and other operational information not available via public sources
  • create a social media page, for example on Facebook, to protest a department policy that you are responsible for implementing or promoting
  • post inappropriate images on social media that reference or involve the department in some way — for example, photos taken of employees engaging in misconduct at a department Christmas party showing behaviour that is illegal, that breaches the APS Values or the Code, or otherwise damages the department’s reputation

Before deciding to post something in a private capacity, you also need to be mindful that:

  • your anonymity online is far from guaranteed, anyone who posts material online should make an assumption that at some point their identity and the nature of their employment will be revealed
  • material posted online effectively lasts forever and may be replicated endlessly, through sharing and re-posting
  • material posted online may also be sent to recipients who you never expected to see it, or who may view it out of context
  • the speed and reach of content posted on social media means that comments posted online are available immediately to a wide audience
  • a site's security settings are not a guarantee of privacy which means material posted in a relatively secure setting can still be copied and reproduced elsewhere
  • criticism of the department’s payments and policies by staff has the ability to erode the public’s confidence in the department being able to carry out its work

If you’re not sure, get some more information

The terms and prescribed conduct described in this policy are not intended to be exhaustive, nor do they anticipate every possible use of social media. You are encouraged to act with caution and to take into account the underlying principles of this policy.

You should contact your manager or the Digital Media section if:

  • you are not sure if you should get involved in social media commentary or participate in an online discussion
  • you are worried about your privacy or reputation as a result of social media posts
  • you find information online you think the department needs to know about, this includes inappropriate activity on social media by staff

Always make sure you provide as much information as possible, including links or screenshots.

Breaches of the social media policy

This policy sets out the rules which must be complied with when using social media. This policy is a direction to you by the department, as an APS employee in the department. You must comply with this policy.

One of the Digital Media section’s roles is to monitor social media and manage the department’s reputation online. Where necessary, Digital Media will contact staff to discuss their online behaviour. In some cases, Digital Media may also need to contact the staff member’s manager.

In situations where a staff member’s online behaviour potentially breaches the APS Values or the Code, the issue will be referred to the People Services Division for investigation and action.

If you are found to have breached the Code, the Secretary or a delegate may determine that it is appropriate to impose a sanction, which could include:

  • termination of employment
  • reduction in classification
  • reassignment of duties
  • reduction in salary
  • deductions from salary, by way of fine
  • reprimand

More information

For more information about the Social Media Policy or related topics:

  • please email Digital Media
  • visit the intranet for information about the department’s Conduct and Behaviour Policy and Proper use of ICT Facilities Standard

You are encouraged to also review the APS Values and Code of Conduct on the APSC website, which this policy is based on.

Page last updated: 27 August 2017