5 FAM 790: State Dept Releases New Regs on Use of Social Media

Social-Media-CampaignImage by Gary Hayes via Flickr

We’ve heard about this new addition to the Foreign Affairs Manual last week, but the document did not show up in the people’s internet until yesterday.  So we’re just now posting below the new regulations on the use of social media for State Department folks. Sorry, not fresh from the oven, but here it is; now part of the 5 FAM 700 series on internet and intranet use available here: http://www.state.gov/m/a/dir/regs/fam/05fam/5_700/index.htm

Update: state.gov moved the 5 FAM 700 series here:

Note that for FS spouses/partners, there is nothing in this new regs that addresses use of social media including blogging, except old 3 FAM 4125, Outside Employment and Activities by Spouses and Family Members Abroad and 3 FAM 4126, Outside Employment and Activities of Non-U.S. Citizen Employees and Locally-hired U.S. Citizen Employe. Both cited as part of the 27 authorities in 5 FAM 790. Nothing either about outside employment and activities by spouses and family members in the United States. Right.

The good news?  The new regs says “As a general matter, the Department encourages the responsible use of social media consistent with current laws, policies and guidance that govern information and information technology. Department organizations will not arbitrarily ban access to or the use of social media.

It goes on to explain the important stuff (active links added below):

5 FAM 792.2 Personal Use of Social Media
(CT:IM-110; 06-10-2010)

a. Department personnel may access and post entries to public, Internet-based social media sites, from OpenNet using their personal profile registered with a personal email address at those sites consistent with general policies on Internet use at 5 FAM 700. Personal entries must not:

(1) Claim to represent the Department or its policies, or those of the U.S. Government, or use Department or other U.S. Government seals or logos; and

(2) Violate ethics rules, for example, the rules prohibiting the use of public office for private gain or the disclosure of nonpublic information and the rules concerning prohibited political activity; details regarding these rules are on the L/Ethics Intranet Web site.

b. Department personnel who create and/or use nonofficial social media sites must adhere to the policies contained in 5 FAM 777 and 3 FAM 4170.

c. Department personnel who create and/or use nonofficial social media sites must not disclose information pertaining to procurement information in violation of 41 U.S.C. 423.

d. Department personnel who create and/or use non-official social media must not disclose nonpublic information, as that term is defined by 5 CFR d 2635.703(b).

e. Department personnel working abroad who create and/or use nonofficial social media cites must adhere to the policies contained in 3 FAM 4123.

f. Family members of Department personnel working abroad who create and/or use social media cites must adhere to the policies contained in 3 FAM 4125.

g. Non-U.S. citizen Department personnel and U.S. citizen Department personnel who have been hired abroad who create and/or use nonofficial social media cites must adhere to the policies contained in 3 FAM 4126.

h. For personal (nonbusiness) materials produced when using social media sites, see 5 FAH-4 H-215.6, Personal Papers, for guidance.

I’ve read that section on “Personal Papers” and there is nothing striking there except emphasis on 1) the separation of official and personal files (including emails) and 2) that “There is no guarantee of privacy for personal materials maintained on a Department computer.” 

5 FAM 792.3 Official Use of Social Media
a. Department personnel may access and contribute content (both original entries and responses to entries) on social media sites in their official capacity. Department personnel should obtain supervisory approval prior to creating or contributing significant content to external social media sites or to engaging in recurring exchanges with the public.

b. Department personnel must inform the appropriate local or regional security representative of previously untested social media technologies they intend to access and of each new social media site and application that is registered in the IT assets baseline (ITAB) in accordance with 5 FAM 793.1, paragraph d.

c. To add content to social media sites, in an official capacity, personnel must use a site or email account created specifically for use in an official capacity that is separate from an account for private, personal use, except as noted in subparagraph d in this section.

d. Employees must adhere to the public information dissemination clearance requirements found in 3 FAM 4170 and 10 FAM 120 if the content is ―of official concern.

e. If personal site or email accounts must be used to post content at social media sites in an official capacity, for example because the social media site does not permit multiple profiles for a single account, personnel must be mindful of the security risks related to revealing personal information.

f. Supervisors may not compel personnel either to create a personal account or personal profile at any social media site or to post personal entries at any public site. Personnel enrolled in training programs that utilize social networking programs may be required to create a personal account for the duration of the training for the purpose of instruction. Personnel may retain or delete the account or profile at their sole discretion upon the end of the training program.

I’m not sure there’s anything here that’s particularly new, do you?  Well, perhaps that part about supervisors not allowed to compel personnel to create personal accounts in social media sites.  I wonder if anyone has ever done that? Why else would that item be included in the new regs? 

But there are a few items that caught my attention:

5 FAM 792.5 Counterintelligence Awareness
(CT:IM-110; 06-10-2010)
All Department personnel or other U.S. Government representatives accessing Department social media sites in any capacity must be alert to the potential targeting of users for intelligence-gathering purposes. Department personnel must remain aware of their responsibilities as outlined in 12 FAM 260. Personnel must pay particular attention to the contact reporting requirements explained in 12 FAM 262.1.

One great item on copyright issues for those US missions on Flickr, YouTube and other social media sites who are enamored with the © insignia:

(4) Copyright considerations:
(b) Public information produced by the Department and published on social media sites or applications cannot be copyrighted and is in the public domain. No copyright insignia or statement should appear on any Department-administered social media site or application;

A warning on Smith-Mundt Act:

(6) (b) Due to the open and global nature of social media sites, Department-generated Public Diplomacy content must be carefully reviewed to avoid violations of the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, as amended (Smith-Mundt);


A blog friend who read the entire thing last week had a spot on comment:

Bless their hearts, they seem to be trying their best not to look like the British leaving Afghanistan (both times) – desperate to stay graceful under pressure and appear to be reasonable, while actually feeling petrified with fear.

I can’t help but agree after reading the entire 5 FAM 790. 

5 FAM 790 Using Social Media http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf?document_id=33982111&access_key=key-1cz8welt0x0fsqg7vi7i&page=1&viewMode=list

The Department of Defense new guidelines on use of social media is in DTM 09-026 Responsible and Effective Use of Internet-based Capabilities References, in case you’re interested.