NC archiving all social media interaction with government accounts

North Carolina
NC Social Media Archive Website

It was the middle of the Civil War.

People from across the Tar Heel state were writing then Gov. Zeb Vance.

Among the correspondence, you’ll find opinions and requests for appointments and jobs during the state’s troubled time.

Those original letters are housed at the State Archives of North Carolina in downtown Raleigh.

All of it is public record. Historic and fragile items like that are preserved and digitially scanned. 

Now some 157 years later, there’s a different sort of correspondence that is now being archived into perpetuity.

Digital archivist Jamie Patrick-Burns demonstrated for CBS 17 how they are now preserving all government social media.

State Archives of North Carolina is one of the first states in the country to capture and save all government social media accounts.  

That includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more.  

It’s all available for anyone to search and view on their computer or smartphone.  

You won’t just see what a government official has said – but what anyone else has said in a post as well. 

Patrick-Burns showed CBS 17 that when you type in former Gov. Pat McCrory, there are 51,000 posts.

Many of those are people stating their opinions that are both positive and negative. 

Sarah Koonts is North Carolina’s lead archivist.

“If someone wrote an angry letter to the governor a hundred years ago, that would have been in the governor’s office and then eventually transferred to the archives and someone would have to come here to see it. If you tweet something angrily to the governor that might show up pretty quickly in the social media archives,” Koonts said. 

Just as with written and email correspondence communication on a government-run social media platform is also a matter of public record.

That includes any direct messaging.

Since that can be sensitive information you have to file a public records request to see it.

But, it is available.

“I would caution citizens to not communicate confidential information over social media because we as government officials running government accounts those are all public records.  And so we are collecting those materials and archiving them and so you don’t want to communicate confidential information” said Koonts. 

Social media has quickly become one of the main avenues governments communicate to us.

It’s also a way for all of us to more easily voice opinions and feel more included in the process.  

“I think it’s good people feel comfortable about communicating about all kinds of things to their government,” Patrick-Burns said.

 It’s also a reminder that it lives on forever for anyone to see.

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