Blog post

Faking Government Agencies on Facebook

By Andrea Di Maio | July 09, 2009 | 1 Comment

social networks in government

Today I was presenting about Web 2.0 to an audience from a federal agency. As usual, I took a look at their web site as well as their presence on some of the mainstream social media, and found that they seemed to have a group on Facebook, with about 900 members. The agency logo is on that page and the discussion boards suggests content that seems to come from the agency. However, when you look at the group creator, he seems to be based in a location that is pretty much unrelated to the agency and his picture, in front of a beer, does not really look “official”.

IT folks at the agency did not know about this and found out because I told them. However none could confirm or deny whether this was an official page or not: they could just guess – by looking at the page and creator’s picture – that it was unlikely to be official.

So, what should an agency do if something like this happen? What if people in Facebook believe that this is officially related to the agency? Should they constantly monitor Facebook and other social media to make sure their logo is not used without their consent? Should they just avoid any “institutional presence” in mainstream social media, so that if the logo pops up, they can disclaim that presence?

While it is somewhat easier to put in place defenses to limit the potentially negative impact of fake agency social media presence, it is difficult to figure out whether such presence is actually helpful and leverage it where appropriate. After all, besides the unlikely physical appearance of the group creator, the groups grew as big as many institutional Facebook pages created by other federal agencies, and its content – while still pretty thin – does not look like being controversial.

It will be interesting to watch what the agency does, but this is a case that many government authorities around the world may have to face sooner or later.

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  • Davied says:

    The Dutch National Communications Office (RVD) has just issued its policy about social media. It plans to make a list of all official government sites on social media (so that citizens can check). Since the name of a government agency is not protected but the logo is, it plans to contact all social media sites that abuse the government logo and ask them to remove it (threatening legal action if needed).

    I have posted my experiences and some background information on Civil Servant 2.0: