UPDATE: Here’s GSA’s statement: “GSA encourages the use of social media technologies to enhance communication, collaboration and information exchange in support of GSA’s mission. GSA is currently in negotiations with NFFE to go through normal labor management processes to reach resolution. Last fall, GSA successfully completed negotiations with another labor organization representing GSA employees on this same issue.”
The National Federation of Federal Employees today said negotiations with the General Services Administration have broken down over a social media policy for GSA employees. NFFE said GSA’s new rules on social media could result in an employee getting fired for posting their thoughts on Facebook, Twitter or other Internet sites — even if they did their online musing from home on their own time.
NFFE said GSA fears that an employee’s online opinions could be seen as expressing GSA positions. (You don’t want just anyone setting official GSA policy on whether the double rainbow guy is high, or merely stupid.)
In all seriousness, there are no simple answers when it comes to the issue of boundaries when expressing opinions via social media, e-mail and other online features. It’s a hard lesson that some in the media have learned recently. Washington Post blogger David Weigel resigned last month after private e-mails to a listserv for liberal reporters called JournoList surfaced, in which Weigel trashed conservatives such as Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh. And Octavia Nasr lost her job as CNN’s senior Middle East editor earlier this month after tweeting that she respected a dead cleric who helped found Hezbollah.
But back to GSA: NFFE has asked for a federal mediator to resolve the dispute with the agency. NFFE said that negotiations broke down Friday after GSA refused to consider any of their suggestions for clarifying the policy and ensuring employees’ rights to free speech would be preserved. I’ve asked GSA for their side of this story and will update with their comment.