May 29, 2024

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Public officials were given guidance regarding their use of social media

Isle of Man public servants have received a directive to distinguish between personal and government-affiliated social media accounts. Stuart Haynes, the island’s information commissioner, issued this guidance following a review prompted by a Freedom of Information request. The FOI sought posts by Minister Lawrie Hooper on X in response to an island-based journalist.

Mr. Haynes ruled that although the account belonged to the minister, public servants should clarify their posting capacity. The original posts by Mr. Hooper led to an FOI request submitted to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for copies of all related tweets and posts since July 19th. The DHSC rejected the request, claiming the information was accessible elsewhere and not held by them.

An appeal argued that Mr. Hooper acted as a minister when making the posts, but was also rejected. A subsequent appeal to the information commissioner contended that under the Government Departments Act, the “minister is the department,” thus the DHSC couldn’t refuse the request. However, Mr. Haynes considered the Twitter account personal, as there was no departmental involvement in the posts.

He emphasized the difference between a politician’s personal account and a civil servant-managed page. Mr. Haynes urged all public servants to clarify that personal social media accounts are not associated with or endorsed by a public authority. He stressed the need for clarity, advising against using public authority logos or email addresses on personal accounts.