Oregon's Public Records Law and Social Media

Oregon's Public Records Law mandates government agencies to maintain public records, including electronic records, regardless of their physical form. The obligation is applicable to all public offices, officers, officials, and institutions.

Oregon Law Text

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(4)(a) Public record includes any writing that contains information relating to the conduct of the publics business, including but not limited to court records, mortgages, and deed records, prepared, owned, used or retained by a public body regardless of physical form or characteristics.

(5) State agency means any state officer, department, board, commission or court created by the Constitution or statutes of this state but does not include the Legislative Assembly or its members, committees, officers or employees insofar as they are exempt under section 9, Article IV of the Oregon Constitution.

(6) Writing means handwriting, typewriting, printing, photographing and every means of recording, including letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combination thereof, and all papers, maps, files, facsimiles or electronic recordings. [1973 c.794 §2; 1989 c.377 §1; 1993 c.787 §4; 2001 c.237 §1; 2005 c.659 §4]

Social Media Records Guidelines from the Oregon Secretary of State

The State Archives division of the Oregon Secretary of State provides online training courses that explain the 2011 amendments to the Oregon Public Records Law and their implications for social media records in the state. The changes were introduced to establish a framework that could address social media and other future technologies.

Moreover, the State E-governance Board emphasizes that social media posts are considered public records, similar to other forms of communication, and must be retained and made available for inspection in accordance with public record retention and inspection regulations. Agencies utilizing social media must have a plan in place for moderating comments on their accounts and retaining content.

Oregon Secretary of State Training Slides

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Oregon Public Records Law Training (2012)

  1. To create a definition that is clearly technology independent
  2. To create a definition that is easy to understand and apply for records retention and disposition
  3. To create a definition that can deal with a technology such as social media and any new technologies that are developed down the road
  4. To formalize the requirement of having written policies and procedures that address use, retention and ownership of public records

Oregon Social Media Records Management Policy

he City of Portland serves as an excellent model for comprehensive social media management in Oregon. The city has implemented a well-defined social media policy that recognizes social media content as public records and offers guidance on retention. The policy clearly outlines that all content posted or received using any social media technology should be considered a public record and managed accordingly by the relevant bureaus.

Portland's Social Media Message to Users 

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Record Retention Requirements for Social Media Content

Each Bureau must maintain and preserve records in compliance with the Oregon Public Records laws, ORS 192.410. et seq. Under public records law, the City is required to maintain records for the period provided in the retention schedule for that type of record. Bureaus have records retention schedules for their records. Those engaged in Social Media activities must be familiar with their Bureau’s record retention schedules and preserve records in accordance with those schedules. (Retention Schedules). The public records law applies whether the Site is hosted by the City or a third party.

Oregon House approved House Bill 3723 A

In 2021, the Oregon House approved House Bill 3723 A, which restricts the dissemination of booking photos, commonly known as "mugshots," by institutions including law enforcement agencies. The bill permits sharing these photos only with other law enforcement agencies or for locating a fugitive or suspect. HB 3723 A also outlines guidelines for removing booking photos from publish-for-pay websites and grants citizens the right to request removal of their photos from such sites.

However, there may be public records concerns if law enforcement agencies fail to properly archive these photos for future reference or mistakenly post them on social media platforms. Failure to maintain compliance with HB 3723 A could result in noncompliance with the Oregon Public Records Act.

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