The Department of Veterans Affairs announced a new social media policy Tuesday that is meant to promote the secure use of sites such as Facebook and YouTube by the agency to better communicate with veterans.
“This isn’t about using social media because it’s cool or because it’s a fad,” said Brandon Friedman, VA director of online communications, in a news release announcing the policy. “It’s about getting the right information to the right veteran at the right time. This policy sets us on a path toward changing how we talk — and listen — to vets.”
Since it began launching social media sites in 2009, the VA has established more than 100 Facebook pages, more than 50 Twitter feeds, a YouTube channel, a Flickr page and two blogs.
The directive sets boundaries for the use of social media and calls for “open and transparent” communication with veterans.
When officially representing the department, VA employees “must reasonably ensure that the agency position on a topic is properly represented in all communications.” They also are instructed to edit public comments that make disparaging comments or contain “unauthorized release of VA sensitive data.”
VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said in a statement: “Veterans should have consistent and convenient access to reliable VA information real time using social media — whether on a smartphone or a computer.”
In keeping with recommendations from a recent Government Accountability Office report that criticized federal agencies for not properly archiving or securing their social media, the new VA policy includes guidelines for keeping proper records and assessing potential privacy risks.