The Virginia Public Records Act applies to social media records in Virginia, which are defined as any information that records the actions of public entities or officials, regardless of their physical form or characteristics. As such, content generated on social media platforms may qualify as a record under this statute, and should be preserved in accordance with its provisions.
“Public record” or “record” means recorded information that documents a transaction or activity by or with any public officer, agency or employee of an agency. Regardless of physical form or characteristic, the recorded information is a public record if it is produced, collected, received or retained in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business. The medium upon which such information is recorded has no bearing on the determination of whether the recording is a public record.
The Library of Virginia is tasked with preserving and administering public records under the applicable law, and provides recommendations to lawmakers regarding potential changes to this legislation. As part of its efforts, the Library provides advice on the management of electronic records, including those created on social media platforms. The Library's guidance on social media highlights circumstances in which such content should be retained as a public record, such as any post that generates comments.
The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to state and local government agencies regarding the retention of public records of posts to social networking sites such as blogs, wikis, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
Agencies need to consider the following five factors when managing the retention of their public records created or received through social networking sites.
1. Are the posts public records?
If posts are made or received in connection with the transaction of the agency’s public business (such as providing advice on or receiving comments about the agency, its programs, core business, etc.), then they are public records and need to be retained for their full retention period.