Federal Government Standards of Conduct do not prohibit federal employees from establishing and maintaining personal social media accounts. However, employees must ensure that their social media activities comply with the Standards and other applicable laws, including agency supplemental regulations and agency-specific policies.
Federal government social media policies include:
- When employees are on-duty, the Standards of Conduct require that they use official time in an honest effort to perform official duties, and that they use government property only to perform official duties, unless they are authorized to use government property for other purposes. This limits the extent to which employees may access and use their personal social media accounts while on duty. Where agencies have established policies permitting limited personal use of government resources by their employees, those policies may authorize employees to access their personal social media accounts while on duty.
- In general, the Standards of Conduct prohibit employees from using their official titles, positions, or any authority associated with their public offices for private gain. In evaluating whether a reference to an employee’s official title or position on social media violates the Standards of Conduct, the agency ethics official must consider the totality of the circumstances to determine whether a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts would conclude that the government sanctions or endorses the communication. An employee does not, for example, create the appearance of government sanction merely by identifying his or her official title or position in an area of the personal social media account designated for biographical information.
- It is not a misuse of position for employees to recommend or endorse someone, for example a job seeker, merely because they have provided their official titles or positions in areas of their personal social media accounts that are designated for biographical information. Employees generally should not, however, affirmatively choose to include a reference to their title, position, or employer in a recommendation.
- An employee is not considered to be seeking employment with any person or organization merely because the employee has posted a resume or similar summary of professional experience to the employee’s personal social media account. An employee who receives an unsolicited message or job offer is seeking employment with the sender only if the employee responds to the message and the employee’s response is anything other than a rejection.
- The Standards of Conduct generally do not prevent employees from discussing or sharing government information that is publicly available. Employees may not, however, accept compensation for statements or communications made over social media that relate to their official duties.
- As a general rule, fundraising solicitations over social media are permissible so long as the employee does not “personally solicit” funds from a subordinate or a known prohibited source as described above.
- The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from sending messages through social media that advocate for a political party or candidate for partisan public office while on duty or in a federal building; engaging in such activity may subject them to disciplinary action. There is no distinction regarding the amount of political content, nor regarding the number of people receiving the message. Employees maintaining a regular work schedule while teleworking are considered to have the same on-duty status as if they were at their regular duty stations (although under agency policy they may be considered off-duty at certain times within those hours, such as on a lunch break). Employees who work irregular hours are considered to be in on-duty status any time they are performing official duties.
Also see OGE Legal Advisory 15-03 at www.oge.gov.