APVMA Social Media Policy

This policy provides guidance to APVMA employees (including contractors engaged through third party providers) about their use and access to social media channels. Staff should be aware that in some instances this policy will apply to both official agency use and the unofficial use of social media channels. For further information, contact communications@apvma.gov.au.

Social media refers to the use of web-based or mobile technologies, tools and services to create, share and exchange information and interact with others. For the purposes of this policy, the term ‘social media channels’ will apply to any such technologies, including blogs, wikis, networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other other online media that allow user participation and interaction.

Purpose

The APVMA Social Media Policy outlines the standards expected of APVMA employees when they use social media and should be read in conjunction with the APVMA IT Security Policy.

Definitions

Social media

Includes social networking sites, blogs and other online media that allow user participation and interaction.

Note: Use of social media by Australian Public Service (APS) employees can be split into two categories: official use and unofficial use.

Official use

Means use by persons authorised as spokespersons and representatives of the APVMA for official purposes, who are permitted to post content within an approved scope on external social media channels.

Unofficial use

Unofficial use of social media falls into one of two (2) categories: professional or private.

  • Professional use is when an employee is a subject matter expert in a field that may relate to their APS employment—or that may be wholly separate from it—and uses social media to comment in that capacity. For example, an APS employee who is a scientist might use social media in their own time to discuss academic work.
  • Private use means use of social media in any other capacity.

Policy principles

The use of social media by APVMA employees must be conducted in accordance with the APSValues and APS Code of Conduct.

Business needs will drive decisions about the APVMA’s participation on social media. These will be selected and developed to meet specific business requirements or as part of a coordinated program of engagement, rather than as isolated activities.

Development of new social media channels will be progressed by the Public Affairs and Communication team in accordance with existing APVMA communication and ICT procedures.

This policy references, and should be read in conjunction with, existing agency policies and does not seek to duplicate these where the directions are still relevant and applicable to the use of social media by the APVMA.

All social media use

APVMA employees should understand that the APS Values and APS Code of Conduct standards apply to all social media use.

The APS Values and APS Code of Conduct apply even if material is posted anonymously or using a pseudonym and employees should be mindful that at some point their identity and employment may be revealed.

Possible sanctions, including termination of employment, may apply if employees are found to have breached the APS Values or APS Code of Conduct through their use of social media.

Note: Current guidance on making public comment and participating online (social media) is contained in Section 6.2 of the APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice.

Official social media use

The APVMA’s Public Affairs and Communication (PAC) team manages all official social media and social networking accounts or pages. Written approval from the CEO is required before an employee is authorised to use social media in an official capacity and to assist PAC with this work. PAC will provide staff training and monitor online interactions for accuracy and appropriateness on an ongoing basis.

When representing the APVMA online in an official capacity employees must:

  • seek written approval from the Director of Public Affairs and Communication, and the CEO
  • disclose that they are an employee of the APVMA and be clear about their role and accountabilities within the agency
  • ensure they adhere to the apolitical character of the APS
  • undertake training when requested to do so.

The role of APS employees in referring to government policy is to help to explain it, or to provide information about its implementation—rather than to promote, ‘market’ or criticise a policy or initiative.

Unofficial/private social media use

When using social media in an unofficial capacity, employees must comply with the following requirements and ensure that any comment made is not (or could not be perceived to be):

  • made on behalf of the APVMA
  • so harsh or extreme in its criticism of the Government, a member of parliament from another political party, or their respective policies, that it raises questions about the APS employee’s capacity to work professionally, efficiently or impartially. Such comment does not have to relate to the employee’s area of work
  • so strong in its criticism of an agency’s administration that it could disrupt the workplace
  • a gratuitous personal attack that might reasonably be perceived to be connected with their employment
  • compromising the employee’s ability to fulfil their duties in an apolitical, impartial and professional manner
  • in poor taste or contains offensive language or connotations
  • compromising public confidence in the agency or the APS.

Unless you have been specifically authorised, do not develop or provide content for social media channels that:

  • attempts to speak, or could be interpreted as speaking, on behalf of the APVMA or the Australian Government
  • commits the APVMA or the Australian Government to any action or initiative.

Employee conduct

Use of social media, whether in an official capacity or in an unofficial professional or private capacity, is subject to the requirements of the APS Code of Conduct, APS Values and Employment Principles, this policy and other APVMA policies and instructions that apply to employee conduct.

Employees of the APVMA are expected to maintain the high standards of conduct and behaviour in official or unofficial online communication as would be expected elsewhere. These requirements include:

  • behaving with respect and courtesy, and without harassment
  • dealing appropriately with information, recognising that some information needs to remain confidential
  • delivering services fairly, effectively, impartially and courteously to the Australian public
  • being sensitive to the diversity of the Australian public
  • taking reasonable steps to avoid conflicts of interest
  • making proper use of Commonwealth resources
  • upholding the APS Values and the integrity and good reputation of the APS and one’s agency
  • not acting in a way that would call into question the APS employee’s ability to be apolitical, impartial and professional in the performance of their duties.

The same principles apply to online comment as to any other kind of public comment; however, there are some additional risks associated to online participation that APVMA employees must be aware of:

  • the speed and reach of online communication means that comments posted online are available immediately to a wide audience
  • material online effectively lasts forever, may be replicated endlessly, and may be sent to recipients who were never expected to see it, or who may view it out of context.

Employee access

Employees of the APVMA are provided with access to approved social media where those channels do not pose a technical threat, for example impact on network performance and data storage capacity. This includes audio and video sharing websites. Access to such channels will continue to be restricted subject to exceptions including where staff demonstrate a proven business need and this has been endorsed by their manager and the Public Affairs and Communications Director.

Bringing issues to the APVMA’s attention

If you find information online that you think the APVMA should respond to, contact Public Affairs and Communication. They will arrange a response from a relevant subject matter expert.

Content

The APVMA has policies relating to the clearance of materials for public release that must be adhered to. Employees who require clarification can consult with Public Affairs and Communication.

Key responsibility areas

Public Affairs and Communication

Public Affairs and Communication is the policy owner and is responsible for ensuring that employees are aware of the policy and understand their responsibilities in terms of using social media in a professional and personal capacity.

Information Technology Operations

Information Technology is responsible for providing access to approved social media channels for APVMA staff who are using agency equipment.

Managers

Managers are responsible for authorising staff access to social media channels in the workplace and monitoring their ongoing use against relevant agency policies and the APS Code of Conduct.

Human Resources

Human Resources is responsible for investigating possible breaches of the policy.

Policy authority

This policy is approved by the CEO of the APVMA.

Policy review

This policy will be reviewed annually (or more frequently if necessary due to technical or other government policy requirements).

Public Affairs and Communication is permitted to issue further guidance consistent with this policy and other relevant APVMA or APS policies without requiring further approval.

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