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Treasury Board’s New Guideline for External Use of Web 2.0

Yesterday I became aware that on November 18th 2011, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat published its Guideline for External Use of Web 2.0. I immediately went to google and looked it up so I could read it in its entirety. I have to admit I was a little anxious.

I didn’t want to see that everything that I have been doing online with Twitter, Facebook, my forum and of course this blog has been in violation of some rule I was not aware of.

I have to say its a serious document.

Its very long and divided into many sections and reads a like a legal terms of use document. Afterwards I did some cursory research online found some interesting comments and opinions online. Mike Kujawski a markerting and social media strategist was of the opinion that a lot work went into it’s creation and that it should not be readily dismissed for its obvious shortcomings that he quickly lists as,

  • it’s too long
  • it’s ambiguous
  • it doesn’t tell me exactly what to do
  • it’s overly polished
  • it’s too restrictive

His point seems to be that this policy will evolve and that by virtue of having the policy now, there exist a starting point for discussion, “empowerment and engagement”. Kujawski states that the guideline “represents a giant leap forward for the entire public service. There is simply no longer an excuse for not taking social media platforms seriously and thinking strategically about how best to leverage them as a public servant.”

But not everyone online would agree.

Jairus Khan who proclaims he developed the social media policy for the Bank of Canada is a sharp critic of the new Treasury Board guideline which he calls a “case study for design by committee”. His post titled Guideline for Digital Oblivion is perhaps a touch dramatic but he does bring some interesting and valid points. In his analysis he compares the “Benefits of Use” section with that of the British Government’s. He contrasts how “The GoC doc talks about how these tools can help facilitate interactive and rapid communication and engagement; the UK doc talks about helping government to better understand and respond.” These approaches are “worlds apart” according to Khan. He also goes on to explain that rather than “guidelines” the UK has “basic principles” which seem succinct and appropriate:

  • Be credible. Be accurate, fair, thorough and transparent.
  • Be consistent. Encourage constructive criticism and deliberation. Be cordial, honest and professional at all times.
  • Be responsive. When you gain insight, share it where appropriate.
  • Be integrated. Wherever possible, align online participation with other offline communications.
  • Be a civil servant. Remember that you are an ambassador for your organisation. Wherever possible, disclose your position as a representative of your Department or Agency.

In comparison Khan argues the TBS Guidelines don’t seem to come close to providing a “sense of the voice that government wants to have, of their desire to respect public spaces.” and that “They want to actively encourage constructive criticism.”

Khan’s main complaint it seems is “how much work it is to get involved in social media under these guidelines”. In effect, Khan’s opinion is that “these new guidelines are so heavy that they handcuff the public service”.

Overall I agree with both Kujawski and Khan. I share Jawkuski’s sense of optimism in his comment “My desired end outcome is to see a more open, collaborative and engaged public service. I see this as a necessary step to get over with and move forward” and I hope this turns out to be true but I definitely share some of Khan’s fears of getting so bogged down by bureaucracy and liability coverage (cover your ass mentality), that the open dialogue aspect of web 2.0 will not happen the way it should. in the end, I guess I’m crossing my fingers but not holding my breath.

As for me, and what I do, I guess section 5 titled Establishing Guidance for Personnel would be where I fall under.

Here it is below and my thoughts in italics of how it pertains to me.

For Professional Networking & Personal Use:

1. Your obligations as outlined in the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service apply at all times, particularly if your employer could be identified through your use of Web 2.0 tools and services. This is true, my employer can definitely be identified and I believe that I am in line with the code.

2. By virtue of your employment, information shared through Web 2.0 tools and services may be perceived as an official Government of Canada position rather than your own opinion. You should therefore clearly state in your account profile that the views expressed are your own and not those of your employer. However, it is important to note that such a disclaimer does not absolve you of your obligations as a public servant, including your duty of loyalty to the Government of Canada. I do clearly state that my blog and all my social media accounts are unofficial. I am also aware and remain loyal to the Government of Canada and my Country.

3. Forward all requests for statements or interviews from the media to your departmental communications advisor and/or provide a contact to your departmental media relations advisor as you may not be the authorized spokesperson on these matters for your department. Not Applicable. Never had any requests.

4. Only publicly available information may be shared externally, unless you are specifically authorized otherwise. Always check permissions required to reproduce or distribute any information, including Government of Canada content such as illustrations, photographs, videos, audio, logos, trade-marks or wordmarks. Wherever possible, provide links to original source material and attribute as required to respect copyright and intellectual property rights. Yes, I only share publicly available information and only reproduce what is legally allowed.

5. Personal information about others should not be posted through Web 2.0 tools and services, unless you have the explicit consent of the individual(s) to whom the information relates to do so. I don’t post any personal information about others.

6. Divert work-related conversations to official channels (e.g. a Government of Canada e-mail account) as appropriate so that there is a record of any guidance provided or decisions taken. I have many times directed people to call the CBSA info line. However I do answer any questions that I am able to assist with.

7. Do not use any Government of Canada corporate symbols or signatures in your use of Web 2.0 for professional networking or personal use. They are for use in official communication only. I don’t do this. Any image used is for display only and for interest only.

8. Remember that Web 2.0 interactions can be easily republished or repurposed without the original context, and may be permanently accessible. Be sure to understand the Web 2.0 environment and its associated risks. ok.

9. When creating an account on a Web 2.0 tool or service, if it is linked to your Government of Canada e-mail address it should only be used for professional networking purposes. I don’t do this.

10. If you have questions about an on-line activity that you want to or have engaged in, you should speak to your manager or Values and Ethics advisor. No questions.

11. You must not engage in any activity that might put at risk the non-partisanship and impartiality of the public service. If you have questions about political expression through the use of Web 2.0 tools and services, you should speak to your manager or contact your department’s designated political activities representative. I don’t discuss and political preference.

12. If you are accessing Web 2.0 tools and services through Government of Canada networks, you must be aware of the terms of your department’s policy regarding the use of electronic networks, including its monitoring, investigation and disciplinary provisions. ok.

Other than number 6, I think I pass with flying colours. But I mean how could I pass on all inquiries back to the CBSA? That’s the whole point of what I’m trying to do. No one else was doing it online. So I did. The people needed help!

Thanks for reading everyone!