Social media has revolutionized countless aspects of our lives and made communicating while at work, rest, or play a cinch. Yet, even as transformational as social media has been over the last several years, our state’s public information laws reflect very little of the world we live in.
Government employees of all ages are tweeting, blogging, friending, and chatting their day through the workweek-but much of this information is inaccessible to the public, violating the spirit of Texas’ Open Records Act.
To help tackle this issue, Dr. Wanda Cash, a guest columnist in the Texas Tribune and a journalism professor at the University of Texas, offers some interesting reform measures for lawmakers to consider this interim.
– Update existing law to include “new definitions that encompass wireless-transmission devices and social media;”- Consider all e-mail traffic emanating from government servers to be public record-regardless of who owns the electronic device;- Standardize the length of time all state agencies must keep public data; and – Apply the same standards that government agencies face under the Open Records Act to privatized government functions.
While the details of Dr. Cash’s open government reforms may need to be fleshed out a bit further to determine their full impact, they certainly give lawmakers something to think about this interim as they go about formulating policy ideas for next session.
– James Quintero