State Dept. Guides Staff on Being Diplomatic Online
BY Nancy Scola | Monday, July 12 2010
New social media guidelines for State Department employees are now up online (pdf). While we're seeing them only now, the document is internally dated for mid-June, which seems to indicated that it pre-dates the dustup over two State Department staffers tweeting while on an official trip to Syria. That's not to say, though, that State Department's new social media guidance for employees doesn't speak to that situation.
On the details, it's fair to say that the actual guidelines contained in the State Department's new social media guidelines are nothing particularly surprising, boiling down to the the idea that State Department employees should generally behave themselves online, even in "nonofficial" contexts. But one, slightly deeper, somewhat speculative way of reading this 15-page addition to the ever-evolving Foreign Affairs Manual, or "The FAM," is as a recognition that the State Department's public faces aren't only going to be found in public affairs offices, not in this century. Where personnel in a press office in an embassy somewhere, for example, might have gotten the idea during their diplomatic training that they're a face of the organization during working hours or not, that understanding is being pushed out to the rest of the institution.
And, sure, that might be limiting, in a way. But it also might be freeing to State Department employees who might have been reluctant to tweet, Facebook post, blog, whatever, because of worries over how that might be looked upon by the organization.