News You Can Use
NEW SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDELINES
There’s Much You Can Do
BY THE NIH CATALYST EDITORS
Many of NIH’s Institutes and Centers (ICs) as well as the Office of the Director are using Internet social-media platforms—such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and blogs—to communicate with the public. For these official uses, anyone working for or on behalf of the federal government must be sure that their use of social media is in compliance with applicable laws and policies such as the criminal conflict-of-interest statutes, the government-wide Standards of Conduct regulations (http://www.oge.gov/Laws-and-Regulations/Employee-Standards-of-Conduct/Em...), and NIH policies on official-duty activities.
You may know that federal workers are allowed to have personal social-media accounts. But you may not realize that activities associated with your personal account have to comply with certain guidelines, too. On April 9, 2015, the United States Office of Government Ethics issued a legal advisory describing how the ethics rules are applied to personal social-media use (http://www.oge.gov/OGE-Advisories/Legal-Advisories/LA-15-03--The-Standar...) [OR SHORT LINK (http://1.usa.gov/1S1ONtK)]. These guidelines apply to all federal government employees and trainees.
Here is what you need to know. Keep in mind that the ethics rules apply whether or not you are using social media. For questions and clarification, consult with the ethics office for your IC (see list at https://ethics.od.nih.gov/coord.pdf).
1. Use of Government Time and Property to Access Personal Social-Media Accounts
· Use of government time and property must follow agency or institute policies. NIH has a limited-use policy, so some limited access to your personal accounts from your NIH computer during the work day is likely permissible. (http://oma1.od.nih.gov/manualchapters/management/2806/).
· Supervisors may only ask subordinates to perform government work, so they may not, for example, ask a subordinate to work on his or her personal social-media account.
2. Reference to Government Title of Positions and Appearance of Official Sanction
· NIH e-mail addresses should not be used to establish personal accounts or as an identifier during participation in personal or otherwise unofficial social-media activities.
· There is no violation if an employee merely includes his/her title or position in an area containing biographical information, but no official logo can be reflected on your personal page.
· A violation could occur if you refer to your connection to the NIH in a way that suggests that the NIH sanctions or endorses your personal social-media activities.
3. Recommending and Endorsing the Skills of Others on Social Media
· You are allowed, in your personal capacity, to make endorsements or recommendations of the skills of others.
· If making an endorsement (such as on LinkedIn), your title may appear in a biographical section.
· A violation could occur if, within the recommendation, the endorser references their title or position or NIH specifically. It is not, however, a violation if the social-media service automatically adds your name, title, and employer.
4. Seeking Other Employment through Social Media
· You may seek employment through social media, but you must comply with the applicable disqualification requirements (see 5 C.F.R., 2365.601 et. seq.). The disqualification requirements come into play if you are working on a matter that involves the potential employer.
· The term “seeking employment” encompasses actual employment negotiations as well as more preliminary efforts to obtain employment, such as sending an unsolicited resume.
· “Seeking employment” does not include posting a resume or summary of professional experience on your personal social-media account or rejecting an unsolicited employment overture.
5. Disclosing Nonpublic Information
· Standard rules against disclosing nonpublic information apply to social media.
· Employees may not accept any compensation for statements or communications made over social media that relate to their official duties.
6. Personal Fundraising
· It’s okay to use your personal social-media accounts to fundraise for nonprofit charitable organizations, but you must comply with the appropriate section of the Standards of Conduct for fundraising (5 CFR 2635.808): [http://www.oge.gov/Laws-and-Regulations/OGE-Regulations/5-C-F-R--Part-26...
· You may not personally solicit funds from a subordinate or a prohibited source (such as an entity doing or seeking to do business with the NIH).
· Different rules apply to political fundraising. Please carefully review those rules because a violation of the Hatch Act may trigger a criminal violation: https://osc.gov/Resources/Social%20Media%20and%20the%20Hatch%20Act%20201....
7. Official Social-Media Accounts
· Follow the NIH Social Media Policy: http://www.nih.gov/socialmediapolicy
If you have questions, contact your IC’s ethics office (https://ethics.od.nih.gov/contacts.html).