Social Media and Electronic Communications Policy
All Victorian Ombudsman employees are bound by the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees of Special Bodies and the Victorian Ombudsman Code of Conduct. The Victorian Ombudsman has a responsibility to develop and implement policies and procedures to support the application of the Code of Conduct.
The purpose of the Social Media Policy is to provide guidance and clarification to staff on their obligations so that they can continue to uphold the integrity and reputation of the office while using social media technology.
This policy applies to all staff of the Victorian Ombudsman, including all employees, student placements and third parties (such as consultants and contractors) who are engaged to carry out work on behalf of the Victorian Ombudsman.
All staff members are personally responsible for any content they post online using social media sites or other electronic communications.
Everyone at the Victorian Ombudsman has an obligation to know and comply with this policy, as amended from time to time. Managers are responsible for ensuring all relevant staff are informed of this policy.
Upon commencement at the office, all staff swear an oath or affirmation
relating to their statutory obligations. Depending on the circumstances, non-compliance with the social media policy may constitute a breach of employment or contractual obligations, misconduct, sexual harassment, discrimination, or some other contravention of the law.
Above all, staff must keep confidential all information they obtain in the course of Victorian Ombudsman enquiries or investigations.
Those who fail to comply with this policy may face disciplinary action, including the possible termination of their employment or engagement.
Identifying inappropriate use
If you notice inappropriate or unlawful content online relating to the Victorian Ombudsman or content that may have been published in breach of this policy, you should alert the Deputy Ombudsman or Chief Operating Officer (COO) to the site(s) and the content in question.
For purposes of this policy, unless otherwise stated, the following definitions and abbreviations shall apply:
Social Media Is any internet based tool created for visitors to upload and download information.
Social media is distinct from industrial media, such as newspapers, television, and film, which are created primarily for delivering information to the visitor/consumer and generally require significant resources to publish information. Social media comprises relatively inexpensive and accessible tools that enable anyone (even private individuals) using them to publish or access information.
If in doubt about what constitutes social media, see the Manager, Information and Technology Systems.
Social Media includes (although is not limited to):
social networking sites (eg Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Bebo, Yammer)
video and photo sharing websites (eg Flickr, Youtube)
blogs: including corporate blogs and personal blogs; and blogs hosted by media outlets (eg ‘comments’ or ‘your say’ feature on theage.com.au)
micro-blogging (eg Twitter)
wikis and online collaborations (eg Wikipedia)
forums, discussion boards and groups (eg Google groups, Whirlpool)
online multiplayer gaming platforms (eg World of Warcraft, Second life)
geo-spatial tagging (Foursquare)
Internal Social Media technologies – Qmaster Chat, Lotus Notes Sametime* and Sharepoint*
instant messaging, including Short Message Service (SMS)
* Pending introduction
The Victorian Ombudsman is an independent office and maintains a position of strict impartiality with respect to party politics.
Where staff are authorised to use social media for business purposes, they must not make statements or engage in activities of a party political nature.
Making Public Comment
Only the Ombudsman, Deputy Ombudsman or Assistant Director, Communication and Engagement (or authorised individual) may comment publicly on behalf of the Victorian Ombudsman in any medium.
When using social media for private purposes, staff may not make any comments relating to Victorian government activities that can be connected to this office. If they choose to make such comments, it must be clear that they are only speaking on their own behalf. Any comment a staff member makes must not be interpreted as coming from the Victorian Ombudsman or identify themselves as working for the Victorian Ombudsman.
Staff must ensure that any personal comments do not compromise their capacity to perform their public role, the public’s confidence that the Victorian Ombudsman is unbiased, or in any way question the reputation, integrity or impartiality of the Victorian Ombudsman.
Whether using social media for official use, or in a private capacity, staff must not do anything which could bring themselves or the Victorian Ombudsman into disrepute. The nature of social media increases the risk of reputational damage through private activities such as:
posting images, information or links to images, persons or information
disclosing one’s own and others’ personal information
expressing approval or disapproval of individuals or organisations within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction or engage in public debate about or involving this office, such as with journalists, authorities or public figures
engaging in a heated debate or argument.
Staff should avoid such activities in their private capacity whenever they expressly or impliedly reflect on the Ombudsman or the work or role of this office.
The Victorian Ombudsman provides monitored access to social media technologies publicly available on the Internet.
All staff members must comply with Victorian Ombudsman policies regarding private use of work resources, including their use of Social Media. Those policies refer to the efficient and effective use of public resources and information systems, and the risks associated with their use for private purposes (e.g. electronic footprints which could identify the user as Victorian Ombudsman staff). While reasonable personal use is permitted, the view of this office is that reasonable personal use is occasional and brief.
Privacy and Confidentiality
Victorian Ombudsman staff may have access to confidential information of various kinds, including information about complainants, other staff or investigation matters.
All staff members have an obligation to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of information that is acquired at work is protected at all times and this obligation extends beyond the staff member’s employment with the Victorian Ombudsman. The potential consequences of a breach of privacy and confidentiality when using social media are severe and could lead to dismissal.
Equity and Diversity
Victorian Ombudsman staff members have a responsibility to provide and support an environment free of discrimination, harassment and bullying in their use of social media.
Victorian Ombudsman management will investigate and respond to all complaints of discrimination and harassment, including those that that have occurred in the context of social media usage. For further information, please refer to the Valuing Staff Policy.