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Public Records Laws and Social Media Retention in

Massachusetts Public Records Law and Social Media

The Massachusetts Public Records Law (G.L.c.4, § 7(26)) requires that public records include all writings made by public agencies regardless of physical form, including electronic records. An update that took effect on Jan 1, 2017 now requires records officers to “permit inspection or furnish a copy of a requested public record within 10 business days following receipt of the request.”

Social Media Records Guidelines from the Secretary of the Commonwealth

The Secretary of the Commonwealth addresses social media records in Massachusetts in the Electronic Records Guidelines. These guidelines explicitly state that social media content is subject to electronic records requirements and cautions public entities that the content exists on servers that are outside of their control. This means entities can not rely on social media service providers to retain records in a manner that satisfies the Massachusetts Public Records Law.

More general guidelines regarding electronic records, including answers to frequently asked questions, can be found in the Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law.

Massachusetts Social Media Records Management in Practice

The State of Massachusetts is committed to transparency in government. Part of that commitment includes archiving social media records, and informing citizens that even their replies and comments may be retained as public government records. The state’s public-facing social media policy clearly informs users that content shared on these sites and comments received from citizens constitute public records under the law.

Social Media Record Retention Legal News in Massachusetts

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


A Massachusetts municipal law attorney discussed the importance of managing social media as a public record in Massachusetts.

Attorney Richard T. Holland specialized in municipal law and wrote an article on the importance of managing social media as a public record. Holland’s article points to the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Electronic Records Management Guidelines, which state that social media communications are subject to the same public records requirements as other electronic content. The author alsosayss, “For municipalities that use social media, capturing and preserving social media content must be part of any municipal electronic records management plan.


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