Illinois Freedom of Information Act & Social Media Law

In Illinois, social media records are regulated by the Freedom of Information Act, which defines public records as any information or communications transmitted or received by public agencies, regardless of their physical form or characteristics.

View Law Text

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Sec. 1. Pursuant to the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of government, it is declared to be the public policy of the State of Illinois that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them as public officials and public employees consistent with the terms of this Act. Such access is necessary to enable the people to fulfill their duties of discussing public issues fully and freely, making informed political judgments and monitoring government to ensure that it is being conducted in the public interest.

(c) “Public records” means all records, reports, forms, writings, letters, memoranda, books, papers, maps, photographs, microfilms, cards, tapes, recordings, electronic data processing records, electronic communications, recorded information and all other documentary materials pertaining to the transaction of public business, regardless of physical form or characteristics, having been prepared by or for, or having been or being used by, received by, in the possession of, or under the control of any public body.

Social Media Records Guidelines in Illinois from the Secretary of State

In January 2020, the Secretary of State's office in Illinois provided targeted advice to government entities using social media, outlining how to adhere to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. This document clarifies when social media posts qualify as records and offers retention instructions, including a suggestion to store records in an external application.

View SoS Guidance

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Page 1, Social Media:

“When an agency chooses to use the social media platform as a two-way communication forum, then records are being created and will require management under either Act. In addition to being a record, any public comments are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and must be managed accordingly”

Page 5, Posting Period and Log:

“It is recommended that a posting log be created in a spread sheet application that records the initial posting date, content developer, approving authority, any attachments, record series identifier, and date of posting removal from the social media site.”

Page 7, Comments:

“When an agency elects to open a page to receive comments from the public, then the original posting along with all comments associated with it are a record. This record is managed under an existing record series such as ‘General Correspondence’, or the creation of a new record series for social media postings.”

Example of Illinois Social Media Records Management Policy

The Peoria County Sheriff's Office serves as an excellent model for managing social media records in Illinois. Their comprehensive policy clearly explains how the Illinois Freedom of Information Act affects social media records.

View Peoria's Social Media Policy

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Terms of Use:

As a communications tool, the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office shall utilize its Facebook Page and Twitter account to raise awareness among Peoria County and neighboring residents and visitors, community partners, and interested fans and followers of public safety news and information that affects the Peoria County area.

Social media sites grant the PCSO an additional opportunity to share its public safety messages with the general public. The PCSO shall utilize its Facebook Page and Twitter account to post news releases, photos, videos, and important public safety information, including but not limited to Amber Alerts, information about wanted criminals, road closures, power outages, and other emergency announcements.

Whenever possible, the PCSO’s social media sites shall comply with all applicable Peoria County Sheriff’s Office and County of Peoria policies and procedures, including section III-13B Political Activity of the County of Peoria Personnel Policies.

Postings on the PCSO’s social media sites are public records of the County of Peoria and may be subject to disclosure under the State of Illinois’ Freedom on Information Act.

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