- Definition of social media
- Statement of Policy
- Guidance for navigating legal issues
- Identifying inappropriate use
On this page
This is the official policy for social media use at the department and provides guidance for departmental employees and external contractors on their professional and personal use of social media.
All employees are responsible for knowing and understanding the policy.
This policy was developed to sit under the framework for the Guidance for the use of social media in the Victorian public sector released by the Public Sector Standards Commissioner.
The intention of this policy is to establish a culture of openness, trust and integrity in our online activities.
The objectives of this policy are compatible with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 and the Public Sector Standards Commissioner Guidelines for the use of social media in the Victorian public sector.
This policy applies to all employees and contractors of the department.
General responsibilities as a public sector employee
Everyone should be aware of their responsibilities under the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees (VPS Code of Conduct). This policy is based on sections:
- 2.2 Remaining apolitical
- 3.2 Using powers at work
- 3.4 Official Information
- 3.5 Public comment
- 3.9 Public trust
- 5.3 Work resources
- 5.4 Open to scrutiny
- 6.1 Fair and objective treatment
- 6.2 Privacy and confidentiality
- 6.3 Maintaining confidentiality
- 6.4 Equity and diversity
Depending on the circumstances, non-compliance with this policy may constitute a breach of employment or contractual obligations, misconduct (under the department's Misconduct Policy), sexual harassment, discrimination, or some other contravention of the law.
Those who fail to comply with this policy may face disciplinary action and, in serious cases, termination of their employment or engagement.
Definition of social media
Content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. Social media is distinct from traditional media such as newspapers, television, and film. Social media comprises relatively inexpensive and accessible tools that enable anyone (even private individuals) to publish or access information – other media generally require significant resources to publish information.
Social media may include (although is not limited to):
- social networking (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Yammer, Snapchat)
- video and photo sharing apps (e.g. Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest)
- blogs, including corporate blogs and personal blogs, Tumblr
- blogs hosted by media outlets (e.g. comments or your say feature)
- micro-blogging (e.g. X (formerly Twitter))
- wikis and online collaborations (e.g. Wikipedia)
- forums, discussion boards and groups (e.g. Google groups, Whirlpool)
- vod and podcasting
- online multiplayer gaming platforms
- instant messaging (including SMS, WhatsApp, Viber)
- geo-spatial tagging (Foursquare, Yelp)
Statement of Policy
Professional use of social media
Becoming authorised to comment
- Before engaging in social media as a representative of the department, you must become authorised to comment.
- You may not comment as a representative of the department unless you are authorised to do so.
You'll need approval from the Strategic Communication Branch and your own business area executive before being authorised to comment.
Rules of engagement
Once authorised to comment as a department representative, you must:
- disclose you are an employee or contractor of the department, and use only your own identity, or an approved official account or avatar
- disclose and comment only on information classified as public domain information
- ensure that all content published is accurate and not misleading and complies with all relevant departmental and Whole of Victorian Government policies
- ensure you are not the first to make an announcement (unless specifically given permission to do so)
- comment only on your area of expertise and authority
- ensure comments are respectful of the community in which you are interacting online
If you are authorised to comment as a department representative, you must not:
- post or respond to material that is offensive, obscene, defamatory, threatening, harassing, bullying, discriminatory, hateful, racist, sexist, infringes copyright, constitutes a contempt of court, breaches a Court suppression order or is otherwise unlawful
- use or disclose any confidential or secure information
- make any comment or post any material that might otherwise cause damage to the department's reputation or bring it into disrepute
Moderation of department-produced social media
- The site owner must ensure a moderation policy is clear when inviting comments from the public on a department website or social media platform.
- All department website activity (including any social media) must be approved by the department’s digital communication team .
Personal use of social media
The department recognises that you may wish to use social media in your personal life. This policy does not intend to discourage nor unduly limit your personal expression or online activities.
However, you should recognise the potential for damage to be caused (either directly or indirectly) to the department in certain circumstances via your personal use of social media when you can be identified as a department employee. Accordingly, you should comply with this policy to ensure that the risk of such damage is minimised.
You are personally responsible for the content you publish in a personal capacity on any form of social media platform. When in doubt, you should seek guidance from the department on how to comply with the following obligations.
Where your comments or profile can identify you as a public servant, you must:
- only disclose and discuss publicly available information
- ensure that all content published is accurate and not misleading and complies with all relevant departmental and WoVG policies
- expressly state on all postings (identifying you as a government employee) the stated views are your own and are not those of the department or the government
- be polite and respectful to all people you interact with
You must not:
- post material that is offensive, obscene, defamatory, threatening, harassing, bullying, discriminatory, hateful, racist, sexist, infringes copyright, constitutes a contempt of court, breaches a court suppression order or is otherwise unlawful
- imply you are authorised to speak on behalf of the department, or give the impression that any views you express are those of the department
- use your department email address or any department or Victorian Government logos or insignia that may give the impression of official support or endorsement of your personal comment
- use the identity or likeness of another employee, contractor or other member of the department
- use or disclose any confidential information or personal information obtained in your capacity as an employee/contractor of the department
- make any comment or post any material that might otherwise cause damage to the department's reputation or bring it into disrepute.
Reasonable and unreasonable personal use
When accessing social media via the department's internet and intranet systems, you must do so in accordance with the department’s Internet and Email Usage Policy, which requires you to use these resources ‘reasonably’, in a manner that does not interfere with your work, and is not inappropriate or excessively accessed.
Examples of reasonable use include:
- re-tweeting content from the @Justice_Vic account on your own X (formerly Twitter) account
- participating in working groups on the VPS Hub (whole of Victorian government intranet)
- updating Facebook status and posting messages during a lunch break.
Examples of unreasonable use:
- departmental resources should not be used to access or post any material that is fraudulent, harassing, threatening, bullying, embarrassing, sexually explicit, profane, obscene, racist, sexist, intimidating, defamatory or otherwise inappropriate or unlawful
- you should not use the department's internet and computer resources to provide comments to journalists, politicians and lobby groups other than in the course of their official duties
- it is not acceptable to spend hours using social media that is not related to your work.
Guidance for navigating legal issues
The following is offered as general guidance to assist you in complying with the obligations set out in this policy. When in doubt, seek further guidance from the department.
Privacy, confidentiality and information security
You should only use personal information obtained in the course of your employment/engagement with the department in a manner consistent with the department's Personal Information Policy and Cyber and Information Security Policy.
You should notpublish or report on conversations or information that is deemed confidential or classified or deals with matters that are internal in nature.
For more information on posting material online (in the “public domain”), refer to the Information Management Policy section “department information in the public domain.”
You should respect copyright laws and fair use of copyrighted material and attribute work to the original author/source wherever possible.
Harassment and bullying
The department's Respect in the Workplace Policy applies online and in the physical workplace.
Workplace bullying and harassment includes any bullying or harassing comments employees make online, even on their own private social networks or out of office hours.
Abusive, harassing, threatening or defaming postings are in breach of the department’s Respect in the Workplace Policy, and may result in disciplinary action being taken.
All employees are expected to treat their colleagues with respect and dignity and must ensure their behaviour does not constitute bullying and/or harassment.
- You should refrain from publishing material that may cause injury to another person, organisation, association or company's reputation, and should seek further guidance if publication of such material is thought to be necessary.
Offensive or obscene material
- Material may be offensive or obscene and may infringe relevant online classification laws if it pornographic, sexually suggestive, harassing, hateful, racist, sexist, abusive or discriminatory.
Contempt of Court
- You should exercise care if referring to pending court proceedings to avoid publishing material that may have a tendency to prejudice those proceedings, in particular, material that will not be part of the evidence in those proceedings.
- You should make enquiries as to any applicable court suppression orders prior to commenting on any court proceeding (whether past or pending).
Identifying inappropriate use
If you notice inappropriate or unlawful content online relating to the department, or content that may otherwise have been published in breach of this policy, you should report the circumstances via email to: email@example.com
Privacy breaches can also be reported to the department’s Privacy Unit on (03) 8684 0178.