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Friday, January 18, 2019

Chicago Issues Opinion on Social Media Use of City Officials and Employees

On January 8, 2019, the City of Chicago Board of Ethics issued an advisory opinion addressing the use of social media accounts by City of Chicago elected officials, Chicago Police Department personnel in particular, and other City employees and officials regarding what content can be posted to social media accounts under the City's Governmental Ethics Ordinance. The opinion covers three types of social media accounts or websites: official, political/campaign, and personal.

Under certain conditions, City elected officials’ political/campaign or personal websites and social media accounts may include (i) content regarding City or ward business and (ii) political or electioneering content, including commentary on other politicians or their policies, campaign donation links, etc. To do so, the website or social media account cannot be funded or maintained with City resources or appear to be an official City site or account by containing items such as the City seal. In addition, the site or account must contain appropriate disclaimer language. 

If an elected official’s official or personal website or social media account does appear to be an official City site, it must remain free of electioneering content, such as “Reelect me for the following reasons.” It also cannot link to any political committee or contain links for making campaign donations, even if the sites or accounts are funded fully with political or campaign funds.

If an elected official’s personal social media account includes political content or postings commenting on public affairs or matters involving City government, the official should not block or delete followers or delete critical or negative comments. The opinion includes an exception for comments that are obscene, profane, libelous or defamatory, or are commercial and posted to sell goods or services.

The opinion also specifically provides that Chicago Police Department personnel are prohibited from posting intellectual property of the CPD or the City of Chicago, such as badges and logos, on their personal social media accounts.

Post authored by David Warner, Ancel Glink.  


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