Banks City Hall. Photo: Brenda Schaffer

BANKS - The Banks City Council, since the outbreak of Covid-19, held its second Zoom meeting Tuesday, May 12, and passed a business item to cement email and social media policy.

For those not in the know, Zoom is a video conferencing program that has become the go-to software used by people everywhere to conduct regular office meetings, broker friendly get-ups, hold Congressional hearings, and even produce TV shows -- notably late-night talk shows, news programs, and, oddly enough, Saturday Night Live, et al.  

The Banks City Council included the adoption of a revised email and social media policy, updating the original that was put into place in October 2014, extending 14 pages in a new city document. 

The decree makes it clear that department heads will act as public information officer (PIO) and be responsible for answering questions brought forth by citizens or by the press regarding specific topics related to the acting PIO’s department, as well as the creation, approval, and posting of social media messaging on Facebook, Twitter, or similar platforms, i.e. Instagram, TikTok, or LinkedIn -- the latter three if used by the city in the future. 

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“(The city’s) social media policy started several years ago but as time advances new items need to be revised (as certain personnel) take on additional roles,” Banks City Manager Jolynn Becker told the Banks Post. “We created a chart designating who would act as the public information officer depending on who is the correct person for a given situation.”

The modern ubiquitous use of social media and email calls for policies to manage legal risks, such as violations of public records law -- city officials using a private email account are required by law to enter those emails into the public record -- and protection of free speech. 

The city’s policy, however, does not govern how officials may or may not use email or social media during their personal time, as long as what they post does not relate to city business of any kind and as long as himself or herself does not identify as a city employee.

Abhorrent comments -- meaning those a reasonable person would deem offensive (racist, misogynistic, homophobic, sexually explicit or suggestive) -- will not be tolerated by the city the document says. 

The new policy says the city of Banks “may not restrict an individual’s First Amendment free speech rights by regulating the content of their social media posts. Cities, may, however, regulate the time, place, and manner in which free speech is permitted and thus, manage comments on the city’s social media accounts accordingly.”

In other words, posts of employees without the permission of the city or the subject of the post may not include personal information, photographs, chain letters or junk email, or derogatory, defamatory, threatening or harassing comments, sexist, obscene, pornographic, illegal, or “offensive” materials.

More information is available in the May 12, 2020 city council packet found on the city’s website.