Social Media and the RTKL

Open records_logo stackedTo date, few appeals made to the Office of Open Records have involved social media. In one recent case, Davis v. City of Butler Police Department, the requester sought the following social media records (the request has been lightly edited for clarity):

  1. All posts made by users to the Butler City Police Department and Butler City K9 Fundraiser Facebook pages between Feb. 6, 2016, and Feb. 12, 2016.
  2. A list of all personnel who operate the Butler City Police Department Facebook page, including full name, salary, and date of hire.
  3. A list of all users who have been blocked from the Butler City Police Department Facebook page.

The OOR found that the Police Department demonstrated that no responsive records exist regarding the first item. During the appeal, the Department provided the requester with records responsive to the second item.

As to the third item, the OOR directed the Department to provide a screenshot of its Facebook page indicating whether any banned users were listed.

The Department provided the screenshots, but also said in its filing that “it is outside [the OOR’s] authority to direct [the Department] to compile records that are not maintained in the ordinary course of business.” See 65 P.S. § 67.705. The OOR held that the Department did not create or compile a record when it provided the OOR with the requested screenshot from its Facebook page; rather, it produced information from a database which was created by and is under the direct control of the Department.

I predicted in our 2015 Annual Report that the OOR will face more issues involving social media records. This case is a good example.

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