On April 23, Bee Cave City Council adopted its first social media policy to define how city employee and department pages interact with the public.

The guidance comes after a March 15 Supreme Court ruling, which held that local government officials can now block citizens and delete comments from their personal pages.

The breakdown

Communications Director Jenny Hoff said the policy will not change how existing Bee Cave social media sites operate for the most part, but it will provide guidelines for how they are run, including the acceptable uses, content, design, conduct and security measures.

Some important points from the policy include:
  • City employees cannot use personal social media accounts for work-related purposes or to conduct official city business.
  • City departments can only edit or delete public comments from open forums in some circumstances, including comments that advocate violence, illegal activity or discrimination, contain confidential city information, or otherwise violate the social media website's terms of service.
  • City social media sites must allow the public to comment without a membership with the site.
A full version of the policy and its definitions can be found on the approved agenda item online.

Some background

At an April 9 meeting, Mayor Kara King said the idea to create a social media policy was spurred by the Lindke v. Freed Supreme Court case, which defined when posts by local leaders are deemed official matters and when they are considered personal.

The case involved a Michigan city manager who deleted a resident's comments and blocked the user from his personal Facebook page, where he posted about the city's health policies.

The court ruled that so long as a city leader is sharing publicly available information and not claiming to speak in an official state capacity, they are allowed to moderate their personal page as any other private citizen could.

Official Bee Cave social media

The policy includes a list of the following official social media pages run by Bee Cave city employees:Under the new policy, the Friends of Bee Cave Mayor Kara King Facebook group, which has nearly 3,000 members, does not count as a city social media site because it is run by private citizens, according to Hoff. Therefore, it is not subject to the same guidelines as official city pages.