hatch act social media guidelines for feds

OSC Issues Hatch Act Guidance for Social Media

In America’s never-ending campaign season, it’s important for federal employees to know the rules of engagement for political activity.

Guidance issued last week by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) details the rules for feds and political activity on social media and via email.

The Hatch Act guidance for social media and email was issued in the form of updated Frequently Asked Questions.

The general rules of the Hatch Act that apply in typical circumstances are also applicable to the digital realm – Federal employees should not engage in political activity while on duty or in the workplace, they should not do so in an official capacity at any time, and they should never solicit or receive political contributions.

Notable changes included in the guidance are:

  • Federal employees may display campaign logos or candidate photographs as their cover or header photo situated at the top of their social media profiles on their personal Facebook or Twitter accounts.
  • Federal employees may display campaign logos or candidate photographs as their profile pictures on their personal Facebook or Twitter accounts. However, because a profile picture accompanies most actions on social media, employees would not be permitted, while on duty or in the workplace, to post, “share,” “tweet,” or “retweet” any items on Facebook or Twitter, since each such action would show their support for a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race, even if the content of the action is not about those entities.
  • “Further restricted employees”—similar to all federal employees—may “like” a social media post from a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race and may comment on such an entity’s social media pages when not at work. Note: No federal employee may “like” a post soliciting for partisan political contributions at any time. Most further restricted employees work in law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

OSC also has issued brief guidance on the Hatch Act implications of federal agencies’ use of official social media accounts.

Posted in General News

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