South Carolina Considers Social Media Ban for State Workers

A new model code of conduct prohibits personal use of social media by state employees in South Carolina.

by / March 10, 2015

If you’re on the clock for a state agency in South Carolina, you better not be fooling around on Facebook or Twitter during downtime.

A new model State Employee Code of Conduct bans the use of social media by state workers while on duty or on state-owned resources and equipment unless it’s required to perform a job function. The recommendations were drafted last year by a task force headed by Holly Pisarik, former director of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR).

The new policy was written to comply with Executive Order 2014-23, signed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in April 2014. Pisarik – who has since been succeeded as director of the DLLR by Richele Taylor – told Government Technology that Haley wanted the model after discovering that many of South Carolina’s agencies don’t have codes of conduct.

“This was the governor’s attempt to standardize the code of conduct for her cabinet agency; this is just a model code,” Pisarik said. “It will be up to each of the cabinet agencies to adopt a form of the code of conduct that will work for [them], and then enforce it based on what works best.”

If adopted verbatim by South Carolina agencies later this year, the code could theoretically be violated by a state employee clicking “like” on a Facebook post not related to their specific job use of the social platform. When asked how the task force envisioned enforcement of the social media provision when drafting the model, Pisarik noted that it’ll be up to the discretion of each agency’s management team to decide what is deemed a violation and what the penalties are.

Pisarik added that there’s no prohibition on social media use during break times while using employees’ own devices on personal cellular networks. The model code is meant strictly to govern usage of state resources.

“The rule is not intended to micromanage our employees to such a level that they’re not allowed to access social media during the day,” Pisarik said.

South Carolina isn’t the only state looking at how employees are using social media. A high rate of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube use sparked a study of state employee network use in Oklahoma. The findings showed Facebook as No. 1 on the list, with more than 2 million views in a three-month span.

Oklahoma Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, told Government Technology in February that the data was “actionable intelligence” and a new way to gauge employee productivity. Murphey said the Oklahoma Legislature intends to continue asking for social media use information, breaking it down agency by agency.

Murphey noted that social media use dropped exponentially after the study results became common knowledge. And while he admitted that there may be a good reason some agencies have more social media use than others, he felt it still needed to be monitored.

South Carolina Division of Technology COO Kyle Herron declined comment about the state’s social media network traffic until after the new code of conduct has been implemented.

Pizarik added, however, that the new code of conduct really shouldn’t change the way South Carolina does business using social media. She said that the people who have a reason to use it during their daily jobs have access to it. Other workers are being screened out at the server level from getting to social media and other sites to help mitigate the potential for viruses and security breaches.

“If employees have a break and they access social media on their phones, I think that’s fine,” Pizarik said. “But state resources should be used for state business, and state time should be used for the business of the state, period.”

Brian Heaton

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.