The Leander City Council approved a new social media policy on Feb. 7, setting in place a series of rules for council members and city staff to follow when posting on social media or engaging with the public on those platforms.
The policies cover a range of topics including when it’s appropriate for council members or city staff to censor or remove comments, to rules requiring clarification between a council member’s personal social media accounts and the accounts used to post and engage in an official capacity.
“It’s all about setting expectations for the public,” explained city spokesperson Mike Neu at the council meeting.
The guidelines also encourage council members to redirect political dialogue that happens within a personal account to email, phone or a preferred social media account.
There’s also a rule stating that city employees who post content on their personal account “that could negatively affect public confidence in city operations.” City employees are also cautioned to avoid using their social media accounts in any way that “causes people to believe the content they produce is endorsed by the city.” Violations of the policy could result in corrective action, including termination of employment.
The council voted 6-1 to adopt the policies. Council Member Christine Sederquist opposed the measure, telling her fellow council members that she didn’t think the policies should be codified.
“I think the guidelines are beautiful,” Sederquist said. “I hate the idea, though, of it’s essentially saying ‘be civil’ on a lot of it… I don’t want to codify ‘be civil to people.’”
Council Member Marci Cannon disagreed with Sederquist, saying, “I think it’s only healthy to have it in there and not just assume that everyone is going to do it.”
For city council members who choose to make an official account to engage with their constituents, the policy cautions those members that their constituents have the right to comment on council members’ posts, noting that any speech that is restricted would be subject to “strict scrutiny.”