Records Management of Social Media and Electronic Records

We have been receiving questions about the records management responsibilities for content created in social media and through the use of electronic messages. We would like to remind Federal agencies that we have issued guidance on both of these topics:

NARA Bulletin 2014-02 for Guidance on Managing Social Media Records, and
NARA Bulletin 2015-02 for Guidance on Managing Electronic Messages.

Agencies are responsible for complying with these bulletins, and managing social media and electronic messages – including traditional SMS texts, encrypted communications, messaging applications, and direct messages on social media platforms – that are Federal records. Social media content and electronic messages related to the conduct of agency business are presumed to be Federal records.

Agencies must properly manage all Federal records, regardless of medium or format, which includes determining whether an existing disposition authority applies. The disposition authority (or records schedule) governs how long the records must be maintained. If no disposition authority exists, then agencies must develop it and submit it to NARA for review and approval by the Archivist of the United States.

Bulletin 2014-02 informs agencies that content created on social media platforms, including Twitter, is likely to be a Federal record and must be managed appropriately. For records posted on third-party social media platforms, agencies must determine how best to manage the records for the appropriate retention period and capture them where appropriate.  Some social media records may be temporary, with a transitory, short, or long-term retention. However, some dispositions may be permanent, requiring the records to be preserved until their eventual transfer to the National Archives.

Bulletin 2015-02 provides records management guidance for electronic messages. Specifically, this Bulletin applies to text messaging, chat/instant messaging, direct messaging functionality in social media tools or applications, voice messaging, and similar forms of electronic messaging systems. Electronic messages created or received in the course of agency business are Federal records. Like all Federal records, these electronic messages must be scheduled for disposition. Some types of electronic messages, such as email messages, are more likely to contain substantive information and thus are likely to require retention for several years, or even permanently. Electronic messages, including email, created or received in a personal account meeting the definition of a Federal record must be forwarded to an official electronic messaging account within 20 days.

Once records, including tweets and messages, are scheduled, they may not be deleted until the authorized retention period has been met. NARA authorizes Federal agencies to disposition records through approved records schedules, so any alteration, deletion, destruction, or removal of records that occurs without following the applicable records schedule must be promptly reported to NARA.

About Arian Ravanbakhsh

Supervisory Records Management Policy Analyst in the Office of the Chief Records Officer.
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