(TNS) — The city of Mount Dora, Fla., this week unveiled a new social media policy for the city council to consider on Feb. 5.
If it passes, the city would resume livestreaming its meetings for the public to view on the web.
In fact, part of the reason for reviewing and revising of the current social media policy was because it did not include any mention of livestreaming at all.
“The purpose of this policy is to establish a standard approach and consistent method for the city to share information across social media platforms,” Public Information Officer Lisa McDonald said. “We wanted to expand our social media policy because social media changes about every six months.”
“There’s some kind of new platform coming out, there’s some kind of new changes that come about, so this is an ever-evolving process of social media. We’ll probably find something new tomorrow, who knows?”
The policy review was deemed necessary in July, after social media Attorney Mark Fiedelholtz of Windermere told the council to consider a break from livestreaming to ensure the policy would stand up to federal court standards and questions of liability when it comes to public records laws.
Fiedelholtz also warned that livestreaming, while transparent and personal, puts the city in the “broadcasting” business.
With that in mind, McDonald, with the help of City Attorney Sherry Sutphen, revised and expanded the policy McDonald introduced Tuesday.
The new policy considers how to respond to comments on Facebook and other social media platforms, clarifying that comments on social media cannot be used as public records requests.
A blurb was also added to say that while the city would be livestreaming certain meetings, it would not be required to do so.
In house, the policy clarifies who would be responsible for livestreaming if McDonald was unavailable to do so.
McDonald said she wanted to make sure a proper policy was in place because, in general, communicating through social media and, more specifically, livestreaming, in this day and age, is essential.
“When I came in, the policy was already established and it was already old. It didn’t include any kind of livestreaming policy so we were able to set that in place,” McDonald said. “It’s imperative for the city to utilize these types of technologies to enhance customer service and community outreach and to encourage citizen involvement.”
Even so, in consulting the League of Cities, as well as other city clerks and PIO’s, McDonald said she discovered that not many cities have thought to incorporate livestreaming into their own social media policies as they stand.
“I always got blank looks because nobody has them, but it’s a great way to protect yourself on social media. It’s kind of like its own department,” she said.
McDonald said she prefers using YouTube over Facebook for livestreaming because closed captioning is automatically added to the video immediately following the livestream.
On Facebook, there’s more to it, she said.
“The reason I like YouTube and it’s number one on my list is we can make the audio ADA compliant, absolutely hands down,” she said. “Facebook only gives you 20 minutes and then it’s a cutoff point before they can add closed captioning.”
McDonald said she had been using Facebook to livestream meetings and then downloading the video to YouTube, which took hours.
She said she wants YouTube to be the primary platform for livestreaming meetings, but said city events could still be livestreamed on Facebook.