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DHS Social Media Guidance Document

Social media play key roles in modern culture. Faculty, students and staff use electronic media including Twitter, Wikis, blogs, social networking sites, online chat rooms and forums, both personally and professionally. Social media are used increasingly on university campuses for teaching applications, marketing and communication with students and fellow professionals. This document is intended to assist Division of Health Sciences (DHS) students, faculty and staff in using electronic media in a manner that maintains appropriate boundaries and professionalism.  While the intent is only to address use of social media associated with university related activities, the line between personal postings on social media and as an employee or student at Idaho State University (ISU) is easily blurred. Professionalism dictates that one is always cognizant of the potential impact of one’s activities on one’s own reputation and that of the DHS and ISU. The ability of ISU faculty, staff and students to completely separate themselves from the institution is limited. Use of social media can expose an individual to personal legal liability and the University to legal action from third parties.

There are legal responsibilities associated with postings.  Care should be taken not to infringe upon copyright laws or intellectual property laws. When posting materials owned by others, one should request permission from publishers, content creators or owners of the material prior to posting.  Where the original publisher has included on its website a button permitting one to publish a link to the content on a social media site, it is safe to presume that the publisher has given permission to do so. Otherwise, take care not to violate copyrights. Do not copy and post entire articles. Use only small portions, and give proper attribution. Be aware that it can be extremely difficult and time‐consuming to identify the copyright owners and obtain permissions, especially for music and video content. Music and video content that is posted on a social media site is likely to be taken down on request of the copyright owner. If it is posted on a private website, the owner could face a copyright infringement lawsuit and significant liability for monetary damages.

Smart users of social media understand two essential assumptions:  Anything that is posted is public, regardless of privacy settings; and everything that is posted can be retrieved forever.  Nothing is ever really deleted. DHS students, faculty and staff are personally responsible for the content they post on social media venues. Given that reality, the following guidelines should be kept in mind for social media postings:

  • Use care in the language one uses in postings so as not to put oneself in a position to be accused of libel, defamation of character or other legal violations. Language used should avoid abusive, insulting, attacking or threatening messages toward others.
  • Never post information, images, videos, etc. about a person other than oneself without his/her specific permission.
  • As nothing that is posted on the Internet is truly private, post only content that one is comfortable in sharing with the general public, including current and future employers.
  • If you note a breach of confidentiality or privacy in postings that you have access to, you are obligated to report them to the appropriate authorities.
  • Anything that exists on a server is there forever and can be reconstructed later, even after deletion. A photograph can always be recovered and may be discoverable in a court of law.
  • Information and data presented should be accurate.
  • Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) ensure the privacy of educational records of students. At no time should information that is considered part of a student’s educational record be submitted, posted or referenced through a social media network.
  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements, as amended, must be adhered to at all times.  References to patients and their health are protected and should remain strictly confidential.  At no time should information about a patient be submitted, posted or referenced through a social media network.
  • A University email address can be sufficient to identify an individual as associated with the University. Postings on social media which can identify an individual’s association with the DHS or ISU should include a disclaimer that the opinions expressed are not necessarily coming from the DHS or the University.
  • Do not use the name of the University to endorse products, causes, political parties or candidates.  Any utilization of ISU logos must comply with the marketing and public affairs standards of the University.
  • Do not post or otherwise speak on behalf of the DHS or ISU unless authorized to do so on social media sites. When acting as an ISU or DHS representative on social media networks, adherence to the guidelines outlined in this policy is expected. Violating these expectations can result in personnel consequences.

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