The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) mandates public agencies to uphold and safeguard public records. According to the act, public records comprise "writings, recorded sounds, films, tapes, or data compilations in any form", thus including electronic content such as social media. Consequently, social media records in Arkansas are deemed as public records.
As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:
(1) “Public records” means writings, recorded sounds, films, tapes, or data compilations in any form, required by law to be kept or otherwise kept, and which constitute a record of the performance or lack of performance of official functions which are or should be carried out by a public official or employee, a governmental agency, or any other agency wholly or partially supported by public funds or expending public funds. All records maintained in public offices or by public employees within the scope of their employment shall be presumed to be public records.
The State Attorney General and co-sponsors developed the Arkansas Freedom of Information Handbook to convey the significance of transparent government to the public. The handbook provides clarification on what constitutes a public record, which includes records created by an agency or received from third parties that fall within the scope of public office activities, regardless of physical form. Therefore, social media records in Arkansas are considered public records under this broad definition.
Q. What records are subject to the act?
A. Any record “required by law to be kept or otherwise kept and that constitutes a record of the performance or lack of performance of official functions” is a public record. Further, “all records maintained in public offices or by public employees within the scope of their employment are presumed to be public records.” The FOIA covers both records created by an agency and those received from third parties. The physical form of the record is unimportant, as the FOIA applies to “writings, recorded sounds, films, tapes, electronic or computer-based information, or data compilations in any medium.”
The City of Bentonville in Arkansas has implemented a robust social media policy that acknowledges social media content as public records posted on the City's Facebook page. According to the policy, all comments and posts on social media platforms are considered public records that fall under the purview of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. This policy serves as a solid model for effectively managing social media records in Arkansas and maintaining compliance with public records laws.
7. The content communicated via social media tools is subject to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
9. Content posted or communicated using City of Bentonville social media tools, either by city staff or the public, will be monitored. Public comments should not be deleted from Social Media Accounts, but some platforms allow an administrator to hide comments. Content containing any of the following may be immediately regulated in a manner consistent with constitutional free speech rights of the comment writer: