Should the Government Change its Rules on SocNet Archiving?

Could the federal government be getting in the way of transparent communication between officials and the public? According to The National Journal, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is caught between a rock and a hard place, battling with its desire to interact more with the public via online social networks and the federal regulations that require everything posted online to also be archived internally.

That’s a lot of records that need to be stored. And it’s quite difficult to store such records when you’re talking about activity across networks like MySpace and Facebook. Private messages sent between users, wall postings, status and mood updates…these are all things that change frequently on social networks, and they are things that quickly and easily convey attitudes amongst users. But they can’t be readily archived. Just think of your Facebook newsfeed, which can be completely renewed in less than a day’s time.

Even though newsfeed updates are saved on Facebook, they’re not archived, searchable or readily accessible for anyone’s purposes, let alone the internal use of the federal government officials. So in an era where President-elect Barack Obama is pushing for more interactive online activity from his staff, the necessity for controlled interaction is still an enforceable measure. What’s a government official to do? Outside of working with the various online social networks directly, the government may have to stick to services that do enable internal archiving, such as blogs.

But even in the face of such an obstacle, it’s evident that many networks and third parties are seeking a fluid and connected way in which to possibly save and archive a good portion of online interaction, even if that includes cross-network activity. JS-Kit, for example, gives you a single arena for certain cross-site activity with a centralized way in which to keep up with everything that’s going on. And I fully expect a day when your Facebook newsfeed will be far more accessible and able to be archived for internal and external purposes as well. It is the story of your life, you know.

While I don’t think that the government’s desire to archive online activity will necessarily spur existing networks to make such consolations just yet, I’d much rather see cooperation, lenience and general understanding from the government level towards the capabilities and communication potential of online social networks than push-back and disdain.

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