In Georgia, the Georgia Open Records Act and Sunshine Laws regulate social media records. These laws mandate government agencies to retain public records, including "computer-based or generated information." The Act explicitly covers "electronic messages, such as emails, text messages, or any other form," as public records. Therefore, social media records in Georgia are also included under this definition.
(1) ‘Agency shall have the same meaning as in Code Section 50-14-1 and shall additionally include any association, corporation, or other similar organization that has a membership or ownership body composed primarily of counties, municipal corporations, or school districts of this state, their officers, or any combination thereof and derives more than 33 1/3 percent of its general operating budget from payments from such political subdivisions.
(2) ‘Public record’ means all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, computer based or generated information, data, data fields, or similar material prepared and maintained or received by an agency or by a private person or entity in the performance of a service or function for or on behalf of an agency or when such documents have been transferred to a private person or entity by an agency for storage or future governmental use.
(g) Requests to inspect or copy electronic messages, whether in the form of e-mail, text message, or other format, should contain information about the messages that is reasonably calculated to allow the recipient of the request to locate the messages sought, including, if known, the name, title, or office of the specific person or persons whose electronic messages are sought and, to the extent possible, the specific data bases to be searched for such messages.
The Georgia State Attorney General has provided guidance on the Georgia Open Records Act, which clarifies the state's policy on open records. According to this document, the Georgia Open Records Act considers "computer records" as public records subject to the law. As a result, social media records in Georgia are also considered public records under this law.
Principles of openness in government are found in the Constitution of Georgia, the common-law of the State of Georgia, and our state statutes. The two Acts that apply to most meetings and records are known as the “Sunshine Laws.” These consist of the Open and Public Meetings Act (O.C.G.A. §§ 50-14-1 through 6) and the Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. §§ 50-18-70 through 76).
The starting place under Georgia law for citizens seeking to attend meetings of governmental bodies or to inspect governmental records is the presumption that the meetings and records are open. For instance, O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1 (b) states: “Except as otherwise provided by law, all meetings … shall be open to the public …” Similarly, O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(b) provides: “All public records … except [as otherwise provided] shall be open for a personal inspection by any citizen of this state at a reasonable time and place; and those in charge of such records shall not refuse this privilege to any citizen.”
The City of Johns Creek has established a detailed social media policy that covers adherence to the Georgia Open Records Act and Sunshine Laws. According to the policy, social media records in Georgia must comply with various laws and policies related to copyright, records retention, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the First Amendment, privacy laws, sunshine laws, and information security policies.
k. Departments that use social media are responsible for complying with applicable federal, state and city laws, regulations and policies. This includes adherence to established laws and policies regarding copyright, records retention, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Georgia Open Records Act, First Amendment, privacy laws, sunshine laws and information security policies established by the City of Johns Creek, its departments, affiliated boards, commissions and authorities.