The Hatch Act: Frequently Asked Questions on Federal Agencies and the Use of Official Social Media Accounts

     


The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) recently issued comprehensive Hatch Act guidance specific to federal employees and the use of social media and email, which may be found here. Additionally, OSC receives many questions from federal agencies regarding the Hatch Act and the use of official social media accounts. The following is a list of commonly asked questions about agencies’ use of official social media accounts. Please note that although OSC refers to Facebook and Twitter, the advice provided is applicable to any social media platform. 

(1) Q: May a federal agency have a Facebook or Twitter account that includes information or links to information about a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race? 

A: No. A federal agency’s Facebook or Twitter account, like its official website, should be limited to official business matters and remain politically neutral. Thus, an agency’s social media account should not “friend,” “like,” “follow,” “tweet,” or “retweet” about a partisan group or candidate in a partisan race or link to the social media accounts of such entities. 

(2) Q: May a federal agency post a news article about the speech of an agency official (e.g., Secretary or Administrator) at a political event for a candidate in a partisan race on the agency’s Facebook or Twitter account? 

A: No. Any information or links to information about a federal agency official’s attendance or speech at a political event for a candidate in a partisan race should not be posted on the agency’s Facebook or Twitter account. 

(3) Q: May a federal agency continue to “friend,” “like,” or “follow” an official social media page of a government official after he has become a candidate for reelection? 

A: Yes. For example, a federal employee may continue to “friend,” “like,” or “follow” the official government Facebook or Twitter account of the President or Member of Congress, even after the President or Member begins his reelection campaign.​