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Public Records Laws and Social Media Retention in
Alabama

Alabama Public Records Law and Social Media

Social media records fall under Title 41, chapter 13 of the code of Alabama, which defines public records law in Alabama. This statute states that “public records” shall include all written, typed, or printed books, papers, letters, documents, and maps made or received in pursuance of law by the public officers of the state, counties, municipalities, and other subdivisions of government in the transactions of public business. Title 36, chapter 12 gives every citizen the right to “inspect and take a copy of any public writing of this state.”

Guidance from the Alabama Local Government Records Commission

In October 2013, the Local Government Records Commission issued a revised Records Disposition Authority (RDA) for Municipalities, which outlined the public records law preservation and retention requirements for social media records in Alabama. This document indicates the need to capture records of social media sites whenever changes are made (which, given the live nature of social media, is all the time) and that these records should be classified as “Permanent” for retention purposes. A Resource Manual for Alabama Regulatory Boards and Commissions (Section Eight: Public Records) states  that “Public records encompass records in all types of media, including electronic format.”

Alabama Social Media Records Management in Practice

The City of Florence has a social media policy indicates that Alabama’s social media records are subject to Alabama Public Records Law and must be maintained as public information accordingly. The policy reads, “[a]ny content maintained in a social media format that is related to City business, including a list of subscribers, posted communication, and communication submitted for posting, may be a public record subject to public disclosure.”

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