Social media, election season – what you need to know

Hatch act and social media

Election season is here, and while we may all have opinions on who may be best suited to sit in the oval office, there are certain things that you need to be aware of to keep yourself out of trouble.

The Hatch Act is a piece of legislation that limits certain political activities of employees of the executive branch, and as members of the Coast Guard workforce, it applies to all of us. With regards to social media specifically, there are some things that Coast Guard members and employees should be aware of.

With respect to active duty service members, you may generally express your own personal views on public issues or political candidates via social media platforms in much the same way you would be permitted to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper.  However, if a social media site/post identifies you as a Coast Guard member on active duty (or if the member is otherwise reasonably identifiable as an active duty member), then the entry will clearly and prominently state that the views expressed are those of the individual only and not those of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Coast Guard).

An active duty member may not, however, engage in any partisan political activity. Further, an active duty member may not post or make direct links to a political party, partisan political candidate, campaign, group, or cause because such activity is the equivalent of distributing literature on behalf of those entities or individuals, which is prohibited by the Military Civil and Dependent Affairs manual.

An active duty member may become a friend of or like the Facebook page, or follow the Twitter account of a political party or partisan candidate, campaign, group, or cause. However, active duty members will refrain from engaging in activities with respect to those entities’ social media accounts that would constitute political activity. This would include, for example, suggesting that others like, friend, or follow the political party, partisan political candidate, campaign, group, or cause, or forwarding an invitation or solicitation from said entities to others.

In addition, use of government office equipment/services by military, civilian or contractor personnel to engage in political activity is considered an inappropriate use which could result in disciplinary/administrative or a personnel action.

More information about the do’s and do not’s of election season as a Coast Guard employee or member, please check out ALCOAST 003/16 or contact your local governmental affairs officer.

If you have specific questions, please leave them in the comments below and we will get back to you!


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