Facebook Drama in Maryland

Seems the Maryland Legislature will once again have access to Facebook:

Five days after sparking protests from lawmakers over his decision to block access to the popular networking site from legislative computers, the head of the assembly’s information technology office said yesterday that he will reopen access to Facebook in the next day or two.

It seems concerns over viruses and malware prompted the ban in the first place. The Director of the Maryland Legislature’s Information Services, Mike Gaudiello, now says that his office has “put in place tools to scan legislative computers for the viruses and harmful software that prompted the block…”.

That raised my eyebrows a bit – while Facebook can be (and has been) used to propagate viruses, the biggest threat to government computers is undoubtedly still regular old e-mail. If you’ve got safeguards in place to protect state computers from e-mail propagated viruses, I’m guessing that you’re probably covered as far as Facebook is concerned.

As social networking tools become more integral to the communications between elected officials and their constituents, a host of thorny issues are likely to arise. I’m curious to see how governments will address these issues:

  • Are the direct messages that people can send via Facebook and Twitter subject to public record requirements?
  • Are direct messages that people can send via Facebook and Twitter FOIA-able?
  • Do status updates in Facebook or Tweets meet the requirements for public meeting notices?
  • It will be interesting to watch as this continues to develop.

    BTW, Hats off to @mmahaffie for the link to the article.