Document Type

Article

Disciplines

President/Executive Department | Science and Technology Law

Abstract

There has been a sharp increase in official communications from government agencies and elected officials that occur initially, primarily, and even solely, on social media. The Federal Records Act (FRA), Presidential Records Act (PRA) and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) govern the retention, access, preservation and disclosure of records produced by the federal government. Recent litigation has highlighted why courts, attorneys, and other legal researchers must consider social media as a primary source of government information, particularly when records may become inaccessible once a social media post is modified or deleted, or when technology becomes obsolete. Additionally, as social media platforms are invoked to preserve the historical record, the absence of clear and consistent retention policies for social media compounds access and preservation issues researchers face when government information is digitally erased days—or even minutes—after it appears. This article establishes that until clear and consistent retention policies exist and there are systemic ways to access and preserve social media as government information, the definition of a “record” becomes irrelevant.

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