Out of curiosity, I emailed the Mayor’s office a few days ago asking what the city’s social media policy is for employees and departments. While they responded quickly, what I received was a list of city social media accounts and a PDF of the Greenfield Police Department’s social media policy. The latter was created in 2011 and last updated in 2017.

The inventory of city accounts is helpful, I guess, but not really what I was asking for. As for the police department’s policy, it is fairly boiler-plate.

The whole reason I asked about the policy is that the GPD routinely posts on Facebook, and many of the posts seem to at least skirt the limits of what is acceptable. During the recent controversy over the racial discrimination lawsuit against the Chief of Police and the city, as well as the budget fights with the City Council, the GPD has routinely shared articles that seem to be advocating for their own positions and advantage.

Furthermore, the department seems to do no moderation at all of the obnoxious trolls that frequent these posts. Worse still, they routinely respond aggressively to critics—private citizens—in the comment threads of their own posts and those of others.

Coming from the corporate/business world, my expectation was that the city would have a general policy regarding what departments have social media accounts, which employees are responsible for maintaining those accounts, and what sort of content and behavior is appropriate. It is surprising that there seems to be no such policy, and that the only policy of any kind at all is the one that the police department created for itself.

Even assuming good intentions—which, given what has been going on with the GPD the last few years, is a stretch—allowing any department to set its own social media policy seems like maybe not the best idea. If this department is also responsible for monitoring and enforcing the policy, that seems like an even worse idea. Given the state the GPD’s Facebook page and posts, it seems to be working out just about as badly as I would expect.

So I guess my questions for the mayor’s office would be whether she thinks that this situation is fine, or whether there any plans to update the policy so that there is some 1) an overall policy for all city departments, 2) vetting and monitoring of of posts by city departments and employees (in their public roles), and 3) what the process is for moderating the comments and discussions on posts from the city-controlled social media accounts.