Social media

Should government #DeleteFacebook?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gives then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a tour of Facebook's new headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on June 23, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Department of State)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gives then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a tour of Facebook’s new headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on June 23, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Department of State)

In the aftermath of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, users of the social media network are becoming more aware, and alarmed, at how it turns member personal data into a hugely successful business model.

To protest the company’s approach to user privacy, many are choosing to #DeleteFacebook. While going through the deletion process, some are learning the extent of Facebook’s personal data collection practices. Perhaps a whimsical move, Elon Musk responded by deleting the SpaceX and Tesla Facebook pages.

Facebook has specific terms of service agreements for government pages — much of the legal aspects are governed by jurisdictional law — but it doesn’t leave many options.

Here’s an excerpt:

For federal government agencies, if You submit a written request to Facebook to block the display of any commercial advertisements, solicitations or links on your page, Facebook may so agree provided that it has decided to make such blocking technology generally available for pages. Your sole remedy for Facebook’s failure to implement such blocking technology shall be for You to terminate your use of pages.

While Facebook will no doubt reassess and revise its user terms and conditions, as April Glaser writes in Slate, it’s time for government to take note:

So sure, delete Facebook if you can. The company may not deserve your trust or your business, and you’ll have more free time to do other, better things. But if you can’t quit, that’s OK, too. That’s why #DeleteFacebook is the wrong message: It frames this as an issue of individual consumer choice. But it’s really a problem in search of a solution either from Facebook itself—changing its service so that its users really can feel safe—or from the government, which may need to step in and blow the whistle on Facebook’s entire business model.

Following Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation lead, of which enforcement starts May 2018, digital rights must become a priority for U.S. federal, state and local governments.

More important than re-evaluating social media strategy, #DeleteFacebook brings to light how government must pay attention to its own data practices, not just internally but, even more critically, with the companies it contracts. This includes free services, such as Facebook, NextDoor and other companies it relies on for community engagement. After deeper review, many will realize it’s time to delete some of its current terms of service agreements and start from scratch.

Given the need for governments to meet its community members where they are — leveraging social media for proactive engagement is a key component of this — it may not make sense to delete government pages just yet.

However, it’s now time for public leaders to familiarize themselves with Facebook’s government terms and conditions and learn more about — and appreciate — data governance issues, starting with GDPR.

ArchiveSocial helps keep government social media on the record books

ArchiveSocial

GovFresh highlights the products and start-ups powering the civic revolution. Learn how you can get featured.

What

ArchiveSocial

Give us the 140-character elevator pitch.

ArchiveSocial enables public sector organizations to embrace social media by minimizing risk and eliminating compliance barriers.

What problem does ArchiveSocial solve for government?

Laws requiring “freedom of information”, and hence record retention, are critical for government transparency. Governments at all levels are struggling with social media records, and most are non-compliant. It is often cited as a top 5 technology issue, and many public entities are limiting usage or refraining from social media entirely.

ArchiveSocial eliminates the compliance risk that is (a) preventing some government agencies, especially at the municipal level, from having any social media presence, and (b) preventing those agencies that do have social media accounts from fully engaging with citizens and not just using these platforms as one-way communications tools.

Citizens benefit from increased engagement with their government, and the promise of government transparency (i.e. freedom of information) being fulfilled.

What’s the story behind starting ArchiveSocial?

In 2011, Anil Chawla was developing consumer social media applications when he stumbled upon the idea for ArchiveSocial. It was clear that social media had become an “official” communication channel for most businesses and government agencies, but that these organizations were struggling with record keeping.

He originally intended ArchiveSocial for private businesses in regulated industries, but while talking to a friend at a brewery, heard that some government colleagues were copying and pasting tweets in order to satisfy open records requirements. As it often happens with beer, he had a eureka moment: retention of social media records was becoming a major pain-point across the public sector, and ArchiveSocial had exactly the right technology to solve it.

ArchiveSocial started a pilot archive with the North Carolina State Archives — a leader in digital preservation efforts — in early 2012, and soon after we began reaching out to municipal governments. Within a year, ArchiveSocial had acquired state & local government customers across more than a dozen US states and was archiving social media for federal agencies such as U.S. National Archives. We also worked with government partners such as North Carolina, South Carolina and the City of Austin to launch Open Archives of their social media records. The strong need for our technology, and the overwhelmingly positive response in government, inspired us to focus on the public sector and ultimately led us to joining the Code for America accelerator this year.

What are its key features?

ArchiveSocial is a robust social media archiving solution that goes well beyond a simple data capture to ensure that records are maintained in a forensically sound fashion. It archives additional content related to the record such as high-resolution photos and background images. It preserves relationships between records and ensures that the necessary context is maintained in the archive. Most importantly, ArchiveSocial is designed so that government agencies can easily locate and make sense of the records when they need them.

ArchiveSocial is a pure SaaS solution, and allows any sized organization to start archiving in minutes with zero IT deployment.

What are the costs, pricing plans?

Customers pay based on the number of records they produce in a month, starting at $49 per month for up to 100 records. We offer a free 30 day trial (no credit card required) on our website.

How can those interested connect with you?

Video

Visualize this: 32,000 DC Bikeshare Trips (VIDEO)

The Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C. has been on my dataviz short list since I first took a crack at Boston’s Hubway data last fall. At the urging of a fellow Urban Planning student and bona fide NYC bike nut, I set out to bring the D.C. system’s open data to life. (The Capital Bikeshare is run by Alta, who will also be implementing Citibike in NYC this year)

In the 32,000 trips included in the 5-day sample, rush hour surges, pulses of local traffic, cross-river commutes, and 3 a.m. Sunday morning “Rides of Shame” can be seen throughout the city.  Trip starts are represented by Blue dots, which quickly fade away.  If the trip ended at a different bikeshare station (as most do), a moving yellow dot appears, covering a straight-line path between the start and end station.  Weekday peaks occur at 9 am and 6 pm, and system appears to be well-used all day long on the weekends.

Capital Bikeshare opened their data in early 2012 and has been useful for visualizers and transit developers alike.

2011 GovFresh Awards entries and voting now open

2011 GovFresh Awards

Every day, tech-minded citizens across the country are doing good by their communities, literally geeking out about how they can help re-define the relationship government has with its citizens, using technology as a democratic tool to collaboratively empower both.

So much is happening in the civic technology community – website redesigns, new websites, open data initiatives, apps, camps, developer contests, hackathons and more – it’s hard to get a perspective on or truly appreciate the collective work of these dot-dogooders both inside and outside government.

That’s why we created the 2011 GovFresh Awards.

It’s time to recognize and honor all that’s been accomplished this year.

It’s time to say thank you.

Here are the categories. Start entering and start voting.

Citizen 2.0 white paper highlights 17 examples of government social media innovation

Citizen 2.0Switzerland-based RedCut has released Citizen 2.0, a white paper of case studies that include 17 examples of social media and government innovation. We asked CEO Hadi Barkat to share his methodology and what he learned.

What was the impetus for Citizen 2.0 and process for selecting companies featured?

The story of this paper is about connecting the dots. Firstly, there is RedCut and swissnex Boston collaborating to conduct research and write a paper about innovation, technology, and citizenship. These are areas of great interest for us. Secondly, at RedCut, we are heavy users of crowdsourcing platforms for creating our citizenship games, and through this effort, we came to appreciate what connected crowds with a purpose can achieve. Thirdly, in our regular interactions with mayors and other government officials, we learned about their strong interest in the topic and their lack of time to properly explore and embrace it. Therefore, we decided to provide a source of inspiration to our stakeholders and open it to all citizens of the world.

Our selection is the result of conversations with field experts and innovators combined with online research. The list features innovation in crisis mapping, ideation, public diplomacy, nation branding, and agenda setting, to name a few areas covered. It is global with cases originating in Canada, Kenya, Brazil, Australia, and the US. Given that US eGovernment initiatives have been more oriented toward outreach to citizens as opposed to internal business-process efficiency, you will find more cases originating in the US.

All that said, the selection is not comprehensive, nor is it a ranking of the best projects.

What common thread/theme do you see in the companies featured?

I don’t know whether there is a common thread per se. This domain is not about technological breakthroughs, but about putting the same tools and technologies to work for different objectives. The fact that we put this list together and almost had to limit ourselves shows that the field is solid. Among the interesting trends we came across, it appears that city initiatives like app or coding competitions are creating demand and pushing entrepreneurs to innovate. Also, it is always fascinating to see how some often-mentioned projects like ManorLabs, SeeClickFix or Govloop were started by a citizen or a government employee with more motivation than dollars.

What should government leaders keep in mind while reviewing Citizen 2.0?

This selection is intended to be a source of inspiration. It is not a template. When it comes to tech-driven innovation, we strongly believe that it is not about the tools but about why and how we put them to work. We have been impressed by how people around the world are implementing innovation with limited resources and deriving value from the process. There is great food for thought and inspiration.

Download “Citizen 2.0”

Time for government to plug into one platform?

In a new blog post, Gartner’s Andrea Di Maio asks if it’s time to pull the plug on government Websites? Di Maio cites one Japanese city’s decision to migrate its online presence to Facebook as an example of an outside-the-box approach to government Web operations.

One comment from ‘Carolyn’ makes a strong case why the Facebook approach is short-sighted:

Believe it or not, some people trust Facebook even less than they trust government. Why make civic participation dependent on surrendering portions of your privacy to a corporation that will monetize it? I don’t want a crowdsourced opinion on when my garbage will be collected. I don’t want to have to sift through the mass of information out there on the web to find the proper permit application, or tax form for my business. And I don’t want corporate interests controlling my access to my government.

Related to this, one of my favorite quotes about Facebook comes from blogger Jason Kottke (2007):

As it happens, we already have a platform on which anyone can communicate and collaborate with anyone else, individuals and companies can develop applications which can interoperate with one another through open and freely available tools, protocols, and interfaces. It’s called the internet and it’s more compelling than AOL was in 1994 and Facebook in 2007. Eventually, someone will come along and turn Facebook inside-out, so that instead of custom applications running on a platform in a walled garden, applications run on the internet, out in the open, and people can tie their social network into it if they want, with privacy controls, access levels, and alter-egos galore.

Di Maio’s general point is that when government builds Websites they “almost inevitably fail to model access the way people do expect or need it.” But just because this has been the case to date, doesn’t mean public sector IT should transition its entire online operations to the trendiest social network.

It’s time for government to radically reconsider its online service offering to citizens with a more sustainable approach.

Centralizing government Websites into one portal is something I’ve advocated for years (see here and here). In fact, the White House is exploring this and other options around improving the .gov ecosystem (they addressed my question specifically on this subject at a White House ‘Open for Questions’ live chat here).

If government really wants to focus on IT efficiency and cost-savings, CIOs and CTOs need to construct a more focused, organic strategy that includes the following:

  • Centralize your Web ecosystem into a single CMS and uniform brand/theme
  • Develop using open source software.
  • Create an open data portal.
  • Leverage APIs.
  • Migrate as much to the cloud as possible.
  • Create topic-based content and ensure distribution via RSS, email and all social media means available.
  • Develop a mobile strategy based on accessing the data above and empowering external, entrepreneurial ventures to compete in a free market to provide the best services (i.e., build less apps in-house).

The above list is by no means comprehensive and perhaps one day I’ll have more time to elaborate. It is, however, a general, sustainable strategy for addressing pubic sector budgeting constraints given the current economic conditions. Some or all of this could be done in-house or out-sourced. If the latter, it needs to be highly extensible and portable.

I’m all for radical re-working and thinking different, but don’t let fiscal uncertainty or short-term instability drive irrational IT decision-making, especially when it comes to public services and citizen privacy.

USDOT in the social media slow lane

photo by freephotouk

photo by freephotouk

The U.S. Department of Transportation is officially nowhere to be found in social media circles, but DOT Secretary Ray LaHood is everywhere, including Facebook, Twitter and Flickr (no Creative Commons). DOT does have an official YouTube channel, but most of the recent videos include LaHood in his “On the Go” video chat series.

While I’m all for high-level U.S. government officials engaging with citizens via social media, LaHood, a former seven-term politician prior to becoming Transportation Secretary, still appears to be on the campaign trail, making his persona the prime focus for the entire department. In fact, LaHood is the only Cabinet member to follow this practice. With the exception of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s Facebook page being promoted on ED’s homepage (they do have an official Facebook page), no other agency follows this protocol.

Here’s why DOT is short-sighted in its approach to social media:

  1. No long-term strategy: When LaHood leaves, presumably the accounts go with him. Even if they’re the property of the U.S. Government, the branding transition back as official DOT accounts will be cumbersome. Basically, the next communications/social media department will start from scratch.
  2. No one knows Ray LaHood: With all due respect, he seems like a great guy, but no one outside of Washington, DC, knows who heads what agency. Everyone, however, knows what DOT is.
  3. It comes off as self-serving: When the agency itself doesn’t have social media accounts, but the Secretary does, the impression is that he’s still running for office or using his position to build influence for future gain.

Hopefully LaHood and DOT’s communications team can change lanes quickly and embrace a more comprehensive and sustainable social media strategy. Citizens (and taxpayers) deserve a more refined, strategic approach to outreach.

If not, does AAA service social media?

Social Congress and the 21st century legislator

Brad Fitch, Congressional Management Foundation

Brad Fitch, Congressional Management Foundation

How is it possible, in the 21st century, that I can Skype with friends in China, keep up with my friends across the country via Facebook and exchange messages with the CEO of a startup I admire on Twitter, but yet when I try to communicate with my members of Congress, it seems like everything I do is swallowed up by the black abyss?

What? Maybe I should try tweeting to Senator Boxer, commenting on Rep. Nancy Pelosi‘s Facebook page or emailing Assemblymember Tom Ammiano? Come on, you’re joking, right? Doesn’t everyone in Congress think the Internet is a series of tubes?

Well, turns out I’m wrong. Not only is Congress up on their social media skills, but according to Brad Fitch, president of the Congressional Management Foundation:

Nearly 2/3 of staff surveyed (64%) think Facebook is an important way to understand constituents’ views and nearly 3/4 (74%) think it is important for communicating their Members’ views.

Fitch talked about how Capitol Hill perceives and uses social media at a #SocialCongress meetup Monday in San Francisco. He had some good news, bad news and interesting perspectives. (The full report will be released on July 26th.)

Bad news first: staffers agree that email and the Internet have made it easier for citizens to take part in public policy, but nearly 2/3 feel like they’ve reduced the quality of the messages they send, and less than half think that email and the Internet have increased citizen understanding of what actually happens in D.C. In other words, to quote Popvox CEO Marci Harris, “The internet has increased civic participation and lawmaker accountability but has not necessarily led to a more informed constituency.”

Great, now we have uninformed people writing to Congress. How does that possibly help our democracy? Well, as Thomas Jefferson said, “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” In 2005, CMF found that “Congress received four times more communications in 2004 than in 1995 – all of the increase from Internet-based communications,” and a 2008 survey by CMF and Zogby found that “43 percent of Americans who had contacted Congress used online methods to do so, more than twice the percentage that had used postal mail or the telephone.”

In this case, the good news and the bad news is kind of a mobius strip: more people are communicating with their elected officials. Those people may not be as well-informed as said elected officials hope them to be, however, the saying “the medium is the message” is more appropriate than ever when talking about the Internet. Senior managers and communications staffers on the Hill across the board said social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were vital to both communicating the Member’s views and understanding what constituents want. The key is doing more than just liking a status update, or leaving one-word comments on a link. To make an impact on your member of Congress, you have to discuss the impact of a bill on your state or district, give a reason for your support or opposition, or tell a story.

Gov 2.0 champion Tim O’Reilly asked the question that was on the minds of all the technologists in the room:

“It’s not just about reaching Congress,” he said, “but can we use technology to make Congress smarter? People in government are ready, they want to figure it out. We have to help them be more responsive, to be the government we wish we had.”