DoD’s has stressed to its employees that they should avoid creating even the appearance in their social media that their views represent those of that department or the government in general, suggesting they post a disclaimer if there may be any doubt their postings could be interpreted in that way.
“An employee does not create the appearance of government sanction merely by identifying his or her official title and position in the biographical section of a social media account, but if an employee’s account has other indicia of his or her official DoD role, he or she may appear to be acting in an official capacity,” says a notice from the Standards of Conduct Office.
Factors to consider regarding whether a posting crosses that line, it said, include whether the employee: refers to his or her connection to the government as support for the statements; prominently features his or her agency’s name or insignia; refers to his or her government employment, title, or position in areas other than those designated for biographical information; or is authorized to speak for the government as part of the employee’s official duties.
Where there may be a question, it suggests posting a “clear and conspicuous disclaimer” along these lines:
“The views and opinions presented herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its Components. Appearance of, or reference to, any commercial products or services does not constitute DoD endorsement of those products or services. The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute DoD endorsement of the linked websites, or the information, products or services therein.”
While the guidance applies specifically only to employees of DoD, it is based on general guidance from the Office of Government Ethics that applies government-wide.
Other aspects of the guidance on social media, also largely reflecting prior OGE interpretations, include that employees: may recommend or endorse the skills of other users on job-seeking type sites so long as it is not presented as an official endorsement; may not disclose nonpublic information; should not allow their accounts to become “an avenue for friends, followers, or private contacts to gain access to DoD programs or seek action from DoD officials in a manner not available to the general public”; may engage in fundraising in their personal capacity provided that they do not personally solicit funds or other support from a subordinate or from a prohibited source.