Iowa Open Records & Social Media Law

Iowa's Chapter 22 of the Iowa code governs open records and meetings, and it defines "public record" to include all records "preserved in any medium," making social media records in Iowa subject to open records policy requirements.

Show Iowa law text

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3. As used in this chapter, “public records” includes all

records, documents, tape, or other information, stored or preservedin any medium, of or belonging to this state or any county, city, township, school corporation, political subdivision, nonprofit corporation other than a fair conducting a fair event as provided in chapter 174, whose facilities or indebtedness are supported in whole

or in part with property tax revenue and which is licensed to conduct pari-mutuel wagering pursuant to chapter 99D, or tax-supported district in this state, or any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council, or committee of any of the foregoing.

“Public records” also includes all records relating to the

investment of public funds including but not limited to investment policies, instructions, trading orders, or contracts, whether in the custody of the public body responsible for the public funds or a fiduciary or other third party.

Public Information & Social Media Guidance in Iowa

The Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB) is an independent agency responsible for providing clarification on Iowa's open meetings and public records laws. The IPIB recommends that the definition of "public records" under the Iowa Open Records Law should be broad enough to cover electronic correspondence, including email messages and social media records. As such, the IPIB guidance suggests that social media records in Iowa fall under the Iowa Open Records Law requirements and should be preserved accordingly.

View the IPIB Guidance 

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(1) Are email messages and other electronic communications public records? (2) If so, how long must they be kept?


(1) The definition of public records under 22.1(3) is broad enough to encompass email messages and other electronic correspondence. (2) State Records Commission policies govern the maintenance and retention of state agency records. In addition, various sections of the Iowa Code address other public records. For example, Chapter 372.13(5) contains requirements for retention of some city records, such as council minutes, ordinances and resolutions. Local government bodies are encouraged to adopt their own records retention policies and to follow them consistently. Deleting a typical email message under such a policy should pose no legal problems. However, if the message remains retrievable or recoverable then the government body would be obliged to provide it upon request, though the requester can be charged a reasonable fee for retrieval.

Examples of Iowa Social Media Records Management Policy

The Iowa City Public Library has adopted an extensive social media policy that explicitly states their social media accounts are subject to both the Freedom of Information Act and Iowa state public records laws. The Library and the City have decided that departments must maintain social media records in an easily accessible format and comply with public records requests for social media content. This serves as a good example for managing social media records in Iowa.

View the Iowa City Public Library Social Media Policy

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General policy

8. Freedom of Information Act and e-discovery laws and policies apply to social media content and therefore content must be able to be managed, stored and retrieved to comply with these laws.

9. Iowa City Public Library social media sites are subject to State of Iowa public records laws. Any content maintained in a social media format that is related to Library business, including a list of subscribers and posted communication, is a public record. The Library is responsible for responding completely and accurately to any public records request for public records on social media. Content related to Library business shall be maintained in an accessible format pursuant to Library and City of Iowa City policy and practice so that it can be produced in response to a request. Wherever possible, such sites shall clearly indicate that any articles and any other content posted or submitted for posting are subject to public disclosure.

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