Australian Public Servants Need to Start Being More Careful on Social Media

Wikipedia
The Australian Public Service Commission has issued an interesting warning to public servants, one which has somewhat upset the union. The new guidelines have warned that public servants need to watch how they behave on social media, particularly in relation to anything critical of their minister. More broadly, anything that might make them appear to be biased, or otherwise unprofessional.

It might not sound like the most difficult thing to avoid, but it extends to such innocuous things as which posts they like, and even what their friends post. According to the guidelines, doing nothing when someone on your friends list posts politically critical content, be it a comment or a link, is almost as bad as showing support. Servants are encouraged to actively state that they disagree with it.

It goes further still, the warning also covers activity done on accounts set to private, or even active under a pseudonym. Essentially, if you're a public servant in Australia, any and all social media activity must remain squeaky clean at all times, and if you have some friends who disagree with the current political climate, best to either give them a wide berth or try and talk them around.

It's worth bearing in mind that these are guidelines, rather than actual rules, but it's still got the Community and Public Sector Union bent out of shape. Their national secretary has described it as an "overreach" that risks jeopardising public servants' right to live a normal life. Whether or not social media is a vital part of everyday life is an argument for another day, but it does seem to be an unfair restriction.

Australia isn't the only country to flirt with this kind of restriction, China and Russia both put heavy sanctions on what government staff can and cannot post online, and even in places with no direct restrictions, politicians and civil servants alike are often pulled up for saying the wrong things on their accounts. This is one of the first cases in an English speaking country acting so strictly on it, however; public servants could face disciplinary action if they violate the guidelines, something which is bound to stir up yet more controversy if it happens.

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