Civil servants cleared to blog

Not before time, the official Civil Service guidance on ‘participation online’ has been published – and whilst it’s not quite the upbeat, positive encouragement that I was lobbying for, it does at least make clear that (a) you’re allowed to do it, and (b) you should say you’re a civil servant (where that’s relevant).

Brevity has clearly been a priority in the final draft. I had hoped we’d get something a bit longer, actively encouraging civil servants to get involved (along the lines of the BBC’s excellent guidance, especially this bit). But Jeremy notes that more substantial stuff may be following later.

Picking out the important things, either said or implied in the text:

  • You are definitely allowed to get involved in ‘2.0’, like blogs and discussion forums.
  • You absolutely should give your job title. You shouldn’t disclose your phone number or home address. Names and email addresses aren’t mentioned, so I guess that’s considered OK.
  • You should explicitly point out that you’re speaking as a civil servant.
  • You should engage in communication: in fact, you should encourage it.
  • ‘You should not disclose information, make commitments or engage in activities on behalf of Government unless you are authorised to do so’ – but if you have that authority, then you can.
  • You should be nice. Well, they say ‘cordial’, but you know what they mean.

This is a big step indeed. And it shows the benefit of having a blog-literate Minister for e-Government. I’m just glad I registered govblogs.co.uk earlier in the week… for purposes which will soon become apparent. ๐Ÿ™‚

Update: A few extracts from Tom Watson’s comments in the Commons this morning:

Our next challenge for the Power of Information Taskforce is to develop more detailed guidelines to encourage civil servants to take the first steps to engage with online social networks.

There are an incredibly large number of digital pioneers across the civil service – young people who may be junior in status – and one of my jobs is to try to join them all up so that they can enlighten their older counterparts in more senior positions.

The challenge for the power of information taskforce is to get our civil servants to engage in online communities in an appropriate manner. Clearly, one of the things that underpins our hard-working public servants is the notion of common sense, and I hope that they will apply that in their online activities as much as their offline activities.

See it in all its glory on theyworkforyou in the morning.

Another update: here’s the video of the announcement in the Commons. First thing I’ve video-tagged on TheyWorkForYou… and a wonderfully easy process.

8 thoughts on “Civil servants cleared to blog”

  1. I think you are seriously misreading this. It’s guidance about how civil servants can respond as civil servants in online discussion. That’s good as far as it goes, but it is not guidance about how civil servants as citizens are free to blog – so it doesn’t, for example, address the Civil Serf question and doesn’t provide any of the positive recognition that was clear in Tom Watson’s sketch of some principles on 11 March.

    The word is that something separate on blogging is imminent – but this is clearly not it.

  2. @Marek: not sure about seriously misreading it. Its the first attempt at attempting a set of guidelines for civil servants. I think the point is, if you are in any way identified as a civil servant, then these are the principles. Civil Serf was clearly identified as a civil servant. I think its a positive step, but its only the beginning and depends very much on feedback and testing in the real world.

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