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WinMX World :: Forum  |  Discussion  |  WinMx World News  |  Government Agencies Make Friends With New Media

Author Topic: Government Agencies Make Friends With New Media  (Read 513 times)

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Offline DaBees-Knees

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Government Agencies Make Friends With New Media
« on: March 27, 2009, 11:09:30 am »

Or at least that's the plan, now that the General Services Administration inked landmark agreements with several new media companies that clear up legal issues surrounding liability and government sunshine rules — thus easing their use by government agencies' websites. This announcement marks a big step for agencies that are trying to become more transparent and connect with citizens, but find themselves saddled with antiquated websites. Now that the bureaucratic brush has been cleared, government agencies will be free, for example, to embed videos and create photo widgets that citizens can embed into their MySpace or Facebook pages. "We know that about every minute, 15 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube, and there’s about 50 million people that use Facebook, so we know that that’s where the public is going to get their information and they don’t necessarily always go to government websites," said Martha Dorris, associate administrator of GSA's Office of Citizen Services and Communications. The GSA ,which led the effort for 12 agencies over the past nine months, has finally worked out arrangements with Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and, saying these are "representative of high volume and innovation on the Web." It has plans on expanding this list further, and is in discussions now with social networking sites Facebook, MySpace and Ning. The microblogging site Twitter was already found to be compatible with federal policy, and the GSA even boasts about its own Twitter accounts in the press release. The new terms of service were necessary because many of the current ones contained indemnification clauses, which the government cannot accept under a federal statue known as the Anti-Deficiency Act, according to GSA general counsel Michael Ettner. "We found that there was not a good enough fit for what the Federal government would like to see in terms of our participation in these free social media sites," he said. President Barack Obama has been pushing for greater citizen involvement in the the government and has already made use of many social networks and new media outlets like Twitter and YouTube. On Thursday he will answer user-submitted questions through the White House website using Google's Q&A platform, Moderator. "It’s another example of why it really matters who’s president of the United States," said techPresident’s Andrew Raseij about the GSA's announcement. "Because we have the country's first tech president, the speed at which the government can catch up with the private sector and use of technology is exponential." One issue that comes up with the increased usage of new media is that of tracking-cookies and privacy. Federal guidelines prohibit persistent cookies unless approved by a department head providing a legitimate reason for doing so. The GSA says that this policy will not change with the new media agreements. The White House already posts videos of Obama’s weekly address to YouTube, and Google announced that it recently redesigned a player that adds a cookie only when you play a video rather than just visiting the website. The White House explains its usage of cookies by third parties in its privacy policy. "A waiver has been issued by the White House Counsel's office to allow for the use of this persistent cookie," it reads. "If you would like to view a video without the use of persistent cookies, a link to download the video file is typically provided just below the video." The Department of Education and the State Department also post videos to YouTube. A number of agencies have already been experimenting using social media, and will need to sign the new terms of service on a case-by-case basis. "Agencies who already have a business case to use these tools will now have the legal footing to do it," said Sheila Campbell, team leader of Web Best Practices and co-chair of the Federal Web Managers Council. "We need to be using the tools strategically — not using the tools just for the sake of using them." She says a good example of this is the Centers for Disease Control alerting the public about the recent peanut recall. "They could reach millions more people by putting this out on Twitter and Facebook, and where people already were on the Web," she said.

Issues and solutions collectively negotiated include (as posted by GSA):

• Indemnification and limited liability: In negotiating the various agreements, we've been seeking to remove the indemnification clause (because agency officials cannot agree to tie their agency to unlimited liability in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act), and to ensure that liability is limited and covered by federal law.

• Jurisdiction and choice of law: The proposed agreements must be governed by the law of the United States and by the relevant state law only in the absence of other federal law.

• FOIA: The proposed agreements recognize that we adhere to the Freedom of Information Act.

• Intellectual property: The proposed agreements recognize that our content is in the public domain.

• Advertising: Providers have assured that they will eliminate or minimize advertising and that they have no intention of adding advertising that they do not currently display. On YouTube, for example, they plan to remove the "Promoted Videos" module on playback pages.

• Grandfather arrangements: In the case of YouTube, previous "click through" agreements will be superseded by new agreements, making it possible to "cover" existing accounts, avoiding the need to close old accounts and rebuild content from scratch.

• Free service: In every case so far, providers will not charge federal account holders for the use of their services. These are not contracts; they are no-cost agreements.  While fee-based "premium" services may be available from the same provider, those are separate arrangements for which the agency should proceed under traditional "procurement" processes.

I denote a change of attitude. I couldn't see Bush involved in anything like this.  :)

WinMX World :: Forum  |  Discussion  |  WinMx World News  |  Government Agencies Make Friends With New Media

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