New ‘social media policy’ to discipline govt employees

New ‘social media policy’ to discipline govt employees
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Law-enforcement agencies authorised to monitor social media activity, freedom of speech to be ‘restricted’ in interest of law & order

Srinagar: While announcing a new social media policy for its employees, the J&K government has made it clear that “law enforcement agencies” will monitor the social media activities of government employees and call for legal action against them if anything they post or share is against the state’s interests. The policy also curtly states that their freedom of speech will be restricted if maintaining law and order “outweighs” that concern.
The notification of the new social media policy was made public on Monday. It stated that it is aimed at providing guidance on “correct use of social media” by government employees.
The policy draft cautions employees that law-enforcement agencies will observe the content and information made available by them through social media.
“They (employees) should use their best judgment in posting material that is neither inappropriate nor harmful to the State,” the policy draft says.
Elucidating that violations of the policy will face departmental action, it states that employees shall not use their personal social media accounts for any political activity or endorsing the posts or tweets or blogs of any political figure.
No government employee should through any post, tweet or otherwise, discuss or criticise on social media any policy pursued or action taken by the government, it states.
“No government employee shall post, tweet or share content that is political or anti-secular and communal in nature or subscribe to pages, communities or Twitter handles and blogs of such nature,” it says.
It further lays guidelines on how to use social media to avoid legal action. It states that employees should use their official title and department affiliation on their personal social media page for professional identification or biographic data, as long as they do not create an impression that they are communicating in an official capacity.
If they are communicating in personal capacity, employees must avoid stating, implying, or creating the impression that they are communicating in an official capacity, the policy explains.
“Employees must not post, comment or share public information on matters related to their work or the work of the department,” it states.
The policy tells the employees that they should not engage in discussion on social media by way of tweets, status updates, posts or blogs on issues that are political in nature.
Besides, “Employees must not post, update, share or promote any status or post that may be contentious or has the potential to create governance or law and order issues or are seen to propagate anything which is anti-social, anti-national or illegal,” it states.
The policy states that if employees use anonymity on social media, they will be penalised.
“This policy may restrict the speech of its employees when employees are speaking on matters of public concern, or when the Government’s interest in maintaining law & order outweighs its employees’ interest of freedom of speech,” it states.
It also states that government employees, whose services are placed at the disposal of a company, corporation, organisation or a local authority by the government, shall also be deemed to be government employees.
The policy claims that there have been incidents in which employees have “vented their work stress on social media, thereby creating unwanted issues for the administration.”
“Such acts lead to breach of discipline contrary to what is expected of government employees,” it states. “Employees should be aware of the effect their actions may have on their image as well as that of their departments.”
The policy allows that a government employee may, for the purpose or removing misapprehensions, correcting misstatements, and refuting disloyal and seditious propaganda, defend and explain to the public the policy of the government in posts and tweets on social media.
The policy also lays down some security tips on social media use for employees. It states that employees should refrain from using third-party apps, as many have been found carrying malicious software.
“The enticing ads on social media are also a source of viruses and malware, which are a potential security threat and should not be clicked on,” it states. “The employees should be careful while accepting invitations on social media platforms, as subversive elements are always trying to be friends with government employees to extract information.”
In the concluding part, the policy says that the government will monitor social media “to track violations of the guidelines and shall maintain official records of violations that contain certain data related to social media activity of government employees.”