Federal agencies are on Threads, here’s what the records agency says about that
“Agencies should assess their business needs and evaluate risks associated with leaving these records in social media,” said NARA’s chief records officer.
Updated at 5:15 p.m., on July 7
With the launch on Wednesday night of Twitter rival Threads, a new app from Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, the federal records agency says its previous social media guidance still applies and underscored the need for correct presentation of records.
Threads allows users to sign in using their Instagram accounts, porting over their username and verification. The platform had 70 million sign-ups as of Friday morning, according to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta. Federal agencies have been among those signing up, such as the Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and Defense departments, and the Transportation Security Administration.
“Government use of social media platforms, including Twitter, Meta, and applications provided by these platforms, has exploded over the past decade,” Laurence Brewer, chief records officer at the National Archives and Records Administration told Government Executive on Friday. “However, our 2013 guidance on managing social media records remains in effect. In particular, as we said then, agencies should assess their business needs and evaluate risks associated with leaving these records in social media.”
Additionally, “capture and preservation is important for temporary records with long-term retention, and for permanent records of historical value that will be transferred to the National Archives,” Brewer said. “Following this guidance will ensure that records remain appropriately preserved regardless of any action the native social media platform takes.”
Government Executive reached out to various agencies that have signed up for Threads to ask about their archiving methods.
“TSA adheres to all federal retention requirements,” said R. Carter Langston, TSA press secretary. “We archive across all social media platforms, and we are saving screenshots until Meta provides the capability to archive with Threads.”
A USDA spokesperson said, “In accordance with federal archival and records management requirements, social media content that is identified as a federal record is captured and exported from the social media platform to our local records using the social media platform's data archive feature.”
The VA, which has posted several times on the platform, said in a statement, "VA’s use of Threads is currently on hold while we assess this new platform."
The other federal agencies did not respond for comment by the time of this article’s publication. When asked if the White House plans to use Threads, White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said during a press gaggle on Thursday, that he didn’t have any announcements on the matter.
Lauren Harper, director of public policy at The National Security Archive at The George Washington University, said, “as with any agency record, preservation needs to be built-in on the front, rather than reverse-engineered at a later date.”
Her concern isn’t that the guidance is inadequate, but rather that agencies may not be following it correctly. “NARA could use more resources to ensure that agencies are actually following the guidance,” Harper said. “To that end, Congress should recognize this and provide NARA the appropriate resource.”
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