The state Revenue Department has brought out a list of “a code of conduct” for its officials on using social media. While the department encourages use of Twitter for dissemination of information, especially during disasters, it cautions the officers against posting messages that are “defamatory or create enmity or hatred among groups of people”.
The circular, dated January 21, also suggests accepting policy criticism on social media for improvement of programmes or scheme. It also encourages use of messaging platform ‘WhatsApp’ for disaster coordination or other coordination work.
The circular has been signed by Hareet Shukla, Secretary, Revenue Department.
“As a part of digital revolution, as new means of communication platforms evolve, it is necessary to dynamically evaluate available platforms for their effectiveness consistent with the need for sufficient security and the need for maintaining official record in relation to the government communication. As the available platforms themselves emerge, mature and sometimes fade away in view of the intense competition, it is necessary to prescribe appropriate guidelines for the Government officials to ensure that they take the best advantage of available technologies without compromising on the need for record keeping and security,” states the circular, which has listed “dos and don’ts” of using social media platform in official work.
“For disaster co-ordination and for other co-ordination related work such as meeting instruction or communicating for seeking information or for event co-ordination messaging platform of ‘WhatsApp’ should be utilised,” it stated.
The department has mandated all officers of the secretary, and officers in the “super time scale and above” to use a smartphone. The senior officers have been advised to start WhatsApp groups of officers with their official numbers in three categories — “state level, head of department level and district level for each district”.
Specific officers at each of these three levels have been asked to administer the groups with a specific instruction: “However, while using such platforms, care will be taken to ensure that confidential information or policy proposals are not shared or discussed on such messaging platforms,” it said.
It further directs officers to give their official email ids and phone numbers as credentials, so that at the time of transfers, credentials related social media accounts can be handed over easily. The department officers have also been encouraged to get their social media accounts verified by the social media service provider.
The department has also put a word of caution to the officials regarding factual and legal accuracy of the content.
“For social media usage, in relation to sharing or forwarding of content, officials may exercise caution for the factual accuracy of the content as well as for the nature of content…provisions of the Information Technology Act and other relevant penal laws may be kept in mind to not share or forward any content that may be defamatory, may cause enmity or hatred among groups of people or may violate privacy or rights of other individuals. As a good thumb rule, reference to specific names may be avoided and aggregate information may be shared,” states the circular.
In case the government officers are using separate official and personal social media accounts, the circular suggests them to put a disclaimer that the views are his/her own and not of the government.