The city of West Sacramento changed its social media policy for the first time since 2011 to prevent the city’s accounts from broadcasting personal opinion or endorsing certain candidates or measures.
The changes to the policy apply immediately to accounts run by the city, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon said.
Our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are still communications organs of the government and should be monitored to ensure that they are appropriate and fair.
West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon
Cabaldon was concerned about retweeting and sharing politically charged posts, especially during election season. Cabaldon, who addressed the issue at an April 6 City Council meeting, did not want retweets or shares of posts from political candidates, policies or businesses to be mistaken for endorsements from the city government.
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The new social media policy bans covering campaign events and warns against posts that constitute an appearance of a conflict of interest.
“Social media policies were first about how to use it,” Cabaldon said. “Even our first draft was mostly about increasing comments and engagement. That’s still important because we want to be effective. But our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are still communications organs of the government and should be monitored to ensure that they are appropriate and fair.”
He was also concerned that conversations between community members via the accounts could lead to an invasion of privacy.
“Say you tweet to the city’s account that there’s a lot of noise down the street,” Cabaldon explained. “In an attempt to be super-responsive, we reply that we checked it out and that it’s a baby shower that will end in a half-hour. In that tweet back we’ve revealed private information without their consent.”
But as the city expands its social media usage, other members of the City Council warned that the new policy may leave some residents without access to information. At the April 6 meeting, Councilman Mark Johannessen mentioned that not all people in West Sacramento have access to a smartphone.
Cabaldon said that the city will use other forms of communication to ensure that residents can stay informed.
“All of our other communication channels will remain in place,” Cabaldon said. “We will still hold public hearings, send letters, have an email-based newsletter and post notices at the library. But social media is rapidly becoming more important than all of them put together.”
Even though the policy places restrictions on what the city’s accounts can post, Cabaldon still thinks social media have a positive impact on the community.
“Social media allows for communication to happen in a more casual, less high-stakes way,” Cabaldon said. “It’s one thing to write a letter to the government describing a problem. With social media, it’s easier for folks to ask a question, or send a complaint, suggestion or kudos in real time.
“Today, that is where our citizens and business customers are, and using it broadens and deepens community engagement.”