State takes aim at ‘risks’ of Twitter, bans Facebook friends


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The Internet can be a wild place, with all the damage one can do from an office cubicle on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like. So the state of California on Friday unveiled a ‘Social Media Standard’ to ensure that its employees aren’t running amok.

‘As with most technologies, there is a measure of risk that must be addressed and mitigated,’ the state’s chief Information officer, Teri Takai, wrote. Those risks are significant, according to Statewide Information Management Manual Section 66B: tweeting and facebooking can hamper employee productivity, strain Internet connections, cause ‘reputational risk to personnel, the agency, and the State,’ result in the leak of sensitive materials, introduce viruses into the ‘IT environment,’ and more.


As a shining example of how to do it right, Takai pointed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who she said had ‘used these communications channels with great success.’ Among the governor’s dynamic use of social media: a video mocking state lawmakers for debating about cow tails, a picture of a smiley face made of fruit in his oatmeal, a photo of his Popeye-like biceps, and a video in which he brandished a big knife while proposing to cut the state budget.

The new standard doesn’t seem to leave room for such creativity by most state workers, who must follow an ‘acceptable use policy’ and only use social media sites ‘to fulfill the business requirements.’ Only authorized users can participate, and some sites should be disabled to prevent ‘unnecessary functionality’ such as instant messaging. The agency should curtail or eliminate ‘web links to other web sites, such as ‘friends’ ’ so users won’t be led to inappropriate material. Users can only speak on behalf of the state if authorized, and within the scope of that authority, and must identify their names, titles, agencies and contact information.

And in case some worker might decide to film a video dressed like the Terminator or Conan, there is Rule No. 8: ‘Users shall not utilize tools or techniques to spoof, masquerade, or assume any identity or credentials except for legitimate law enforcement purposes, or for other legitimate State purposes as defined in agency policy.’

--Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento