State Dept. mulling new rules on employee’s social media, other speech


Peter Van Buren, the reported inspiration behind proposed new rules at the State Department. (Courtesy of Peter Van Buren)

The department is rewriting its rules on social media, blogging, speeches and other appearances by employees, suggesting that officials get a full two days to review an employee’s proposed tweets and five days to give a yea or nay to a blog post, speech, or remarks prepared for a live event, according to the blog Diplopundit.

Two days to review and approve a tweet? Kind of defeats the insta-knee-jerk nature of the medium. And you can forget live-tweeting.

While the rules are still in draft form, they seem to be a tighter version of previous regulations. Diplopundit suggests the rewrite is a “CYA” (look it up) move in the wake the scandal involving Peter Van Buren, the foreign service officer who wrote a book offering a warts-and-all account of reconstruction work in Iraq.

State Department officials would have 30 days to look over such books or longer works.

The new rules are aimed at ensuring that “protected information” (as opposed to the current rules’ narrower focus on classified information) isn’t revealed to the public, Diplopundit reports. And they’re also meant to “evaluate the potential that the employee activity could ‘hurt’ or ‘damage the Department.’”

State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner tells the Loop the still-in-the-works changes are merely updates “to recognize the dynamic and decentralized nature of the 21st century information environment.”

We know agency budgets are tight all around, but it sounds like the State Department better spring for some extra red pens.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

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