Hatch Act and Social Media

From: Hatchact Update
Sent: Wednesday, April 04, 2012 8:29 AM
To: HATCHACT@LISTSERV.OSC.GOV
Subject: Social Media and the Hatch Act

Update to OSC's Guidance Regarding the Hatch Act and Further Restricted Employees' Use of Social Media

Previously, with regard to Facebook, OSC has advised that a further restricted employee (see 5 U.S.C. § 7323(b)) may become a “friend” of or “like” a political party, partisan group, or candidate’s Facebook page only if he adjusts his privacy settings such that his list of “friends,” “likes,” “interests,” and “pages” that provide links to those entities’ pages are visible only to the employee.  Similarly, OSC has advised that a further restricted employee may “follow” the Twitter account of a political party, partisan group, or partisan candidate’s campaign only if the employee’s list of whom he follows is hidden from his followers.

After careful consideration of the evolving world of social media and the realities of using such sites as Facebook and Twitter, OSC has modified its previously issued guidance.  OSC now advises that, regardless of the employee’s privacy settings, the Hatch Act would not prohibit a further restricted employee from “following” the Twitter account of a political party, partisan group, or partisan candidate’s campaign.  Similarly, the Hatch Act would not prohibit a further restricted employee from becoming a “friend” of or “liking” a political party, partisan group, or candidate’s Facebook page.  OSC does not view such activity as active participation in partisan political campaigning. 

However, a further restricted employee may not otherwise post links to, or post or comment on, these entities’ Facebook pages or Twitter accounts.  In addition, a further restricted employee may not “share” or “re-share” these entities’ Facebook pages or any posts on those pages.  Similarly, a further restricted employee may not “re-tweet” posts from these entities’ Twitter accounts.  OSC views these activities as active participation in partisan political campaigning.

For additional information on the Hatch Act and the use of social media, please see the attached guidance, which has been updated since its original issuance in 2010.

Updated: 2/19/13