Public Records Laws and Social Media Retention in

California Public Records Act and Social Media

California has over 431 active social media accounts run by public agencies with 38 million followers. The California Public Records Act requires that government agencies preserve public records regardless of physical form and specifies “any form of communication or representation.” Therefore social media records in California qualify as public information under the law.

Guidance from the California Secretary of State Records and Information Management Program

The California Records and Information Management Program (CalRIM), a department of the Secretary of State, has issued guidelines that explain when agencies need to retain social media records in California. The document supports agencies’ use of social media to engage with the public and outlines criteria for determining when its use creates records that entities must retain.

Proposition 42 and Government Social Media

The passage of Proposition 42 in June of 2014 amended the state constitution to require that local governments abide by the California Public Records Act. The new law also ends reimbursement from the state government of costs incurred by local governments in fulfilling records requests.

California Social Media Records Management in Practice

Palo Alto, LA County, Montague, Fullerton, and Concord are just a few of the more than 100 cities, counties, and public agencies that have adopted comprehensive social media policies that clearly state, “social media sites are subject to the California Public Records Act.” The social media policy of South San Francisco provides a clear example.

Assembly Bill 1475

In 2021, Assembly Bill 1475 was passed and approved by the Governor. This bill prohibits the posting of booking photos, often called “mugshots”, for individuals arrested on suspicion of nonviolent crimes. Affecting police departments and other law enforcement agencies, this bill also requires that police departments remove these photos from social media pages in most cases if they are already present.

This causes issues for social media record retention for the California Public Records Act. Removing images and posts from social media may also mean deleting public records if you aren’t preserving records outside of the social media site.

Social Media Record Retention Legal News in California

Read about California cases and precedents involving social media and public record retention.


City attorney states that public officials’ social media accounts are considered a public forum and a source of public records.

An El Cajon, CA, city councilman received a lawsuit for restricting citizens’ first amendment rights by blocking them from his Facebook page. The city attorney ruled in favor of the citizens, stating that even council members’ personal social media pages can be considered public records.

San Mateo, CA, sued for not maintaining a record of social media in accordance with the California Public Records Act

A resident issued a records request for the police department’s direct messages on Twitter. The City could not fulfill the request because the department’s Twitter account had been hacked, and all direct messages were deleted. The City settled to avoid litigation and agreed to start archiving direct messages from Twitter (now X).


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