Public Records Laws and Social Media Retention in
Rhode Island

Rhode Island Public Records Act and Social Media Records Management

The Rhode Island Public Records Act governs preserving and maintaining social media records in Rhode Island. The Act identifies “computer-stored data” as a public record, specifically noting that “electronic mail” is included under that definition. As the Act is written broadly to include any material “regardless of physical form or characteristics,” social media records can also be considered public.

Guidance from Rhode Island State Attorney General

In guidance from the Rhode Island State Attorney General, the Rhode Island Public Records Act is characterized as being designed to foster government accountability. The document identifies that any exceptions to the Law are “specifically” and “narrowly” defined, suggesting that the Law should otherwise be enacted broadly. Under this guidance and with the broad definition of public records in the Law, social media records in Rhode Island can be considered public.

Rhode Island Social Media Records Management in Practice

The State of Rhode Island implemented a comprehensive social media policy to govern information posted to social networks. The policy clearly states that any information posted on social networking sites “may be construed as an official record” and be subject to the Access to Public Records Act litigation and records retention policies. This policy serves as a model for mitigating litigation risk when managing social media records in Rhode Island.


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